Zen and Now

Time slips away

Well here it is almost one year since landing in Nihon. It will be one year when this is posted. However for now there is still a few days to go as I start this. Pretty amazing when thinking about it. I am still on the high from passing my San-dan exam. That was a personal big deal to me, having failed it before I left. It was kind of the signal of how things progressed afterward. A rough start to the sail down the coast, too late in the season to make a ocean crossing, weird weather patterns dictated staying in Mexico longer than plan as well as a longer trip there. Then problems going to the south Pacific and ultimately problem sailing to Hawaii and having to abandon ship. My baby, part of the foundation of my dreams. I accepted what I had to deal with and kept moving. We made it to Japan, on July 1st 2013
We moved in with Okasan while we settle in. With the big help of her and a surprising amount of compassionate friends we slowly made ourselves a new home. Even with a fair amount of controversy from family I started kyudo study again. Practicing at two location near Okasan. It is good I did not wait. As I was only able to work with Nogami Sensei a couple of times before we moved. He did set me up with another sensei at a location near to us. Shortly afterward he passed away.
Sept 1st we moved into our new home. A small older house in a somewhat countryside area. For us it was perfect. Remodeled, small yard, extra room for my studio and or guest. Nearby a train station and shopping. Not too far away where a couple of Kyudojos. One of which accepted me right away. The other, well it worked out for the best at the accepted place anyway. So no need to reopen that wound.
Slowly slowly step by step this got taken care of paperwork, registering, boating license, bikes for transportation. Even some music started happening which for a while I did not see as something that would come about. For the last three months I have been playing once a month with different people for a charity benefit. No money is involved for me, but I am getting known and meeting people. That is a big step. This last event I got to play with a celebrity, that was very cool. I was given a solo and pulled it off nicely I was told. Glad I did not lose face. I was concerned as doing “walking bass” is a weak spot for me. My goal for this up coming year is to be comfortable playing “Blues Piano”. There are always a lot Bass players, harmonica players, guitar players at these events. However only once has there been a keyboard. I have a basic knowledge on piano, I need to practice and expand my cording and working both hands.
So as things now stand. My little zen garden has developed from an overgrown weed patch into something of peace and simple beauty. I am working a couple of times a week doing some misc yard work for a friend. I have been offered some boating work, teaching and delivery by the same friend. 
And Now:
Another thing that was pursued once here was setting up some martial art class and meditation. Although small I do have a a regular teaching spot at the local community center. Teaching Chan Meditation and Kung Fu one class each a week. I am thinking Kobe is a good area to have a class, only thing it is a long train ride. I do know some people there now, if I can find a location and get at least three students it maybe be worth it…next project.
I was told today I have been offered if I want it a position as a city worker doing gardening and misc work. The details I have yet to find out, but steady work in good. Updated word on this is I am good to go, now just waiting on a call to come in. So with this, working for Aoki Yachts, Aoki gardening work, the culture center jobs, and social security and LZ’s part time work we can hopefully pay off our bills and start saving again. That would be a real blessing. As we know “time waits for no one”
I also have been told as a sailing instructor for Aoki Sailing school, I will have free use of a boat when I want for personal use if a boat is free. Extra cool, now I get to sail and not worry about having my own boat. I can explore that later, for now I can do some day sails around the area!
I finished teaching my first class as an instructor for sailing the other day, all in Japanese. It went ok…mostly. I need to increase my vocabulary, but basically it went well. Sometimes I have to think of other ways of explaining things beyond words. By the end of the season I should have improved greatly.
Overall things are good here. I do not miss the states really at all. Well except Alameda in the winter Here as I still do not like the cold, but i made it through and know what to expect now. Really not too bad. With all the political, and police crap going on in the states. I am so happy to be away from there. I do not know if I could live comfortable there again. I hope I do not have to find out. I know I can not afford it money wise. It would have to be Mexico or the like. Ensenada comes first to mind. Fairly near the boarder but not too close. The people are nice. I met some Tai Chi people so there is that connection. I could see merging with them and also starting a Kyudo club. If I was a Renshi…
I have met a few like minded people and started a few friendships. Not really one to hang out in the States so do not miss that or need that from people here.
So goals for 2014-2015:
Go to Nagoya
Play keyboards
Do some ceramics again
Start a new savings account
Improve my Japanese by 50%

We be Jam’n

Blus 4 Bali in June

I had just finished my apprentice sailing teaching class at Aoki Sailing school and was heading off to. Kobe for another monthly Jam session. One of the girls in the office gave me a ride to the train station. It is weird speaking with someone in another language. Sort of fascinated that you can communicate something, at the same time hoping for quiet so nothing will be said that you can not figure out and things get tight, energy-wise.
Anyway, the convo was light I got most of it, and I was dropped off at the station. I decide to have something to eat there since I was near to a really good udon place. I went in and had a nice hot bowl of Kisune Udon, the time i finished it was pouring rain, as in buckets. I was pleased I was next door to the train station and the rest of the next couPle of hours would be on the train mostly. Still I picked up a 1.00 umbrella, since I was near the dollar store. It was a good place it it came in handy after the club.
The ride to Kobe was long. This time I made the trip without the aid of a map. I felt like a local! I was also able to do it on the way home, no map.
I arrived at the club in fair time. Early enough to see most of the players. It is kind of nice to walk in and get greeted by people you know. Tonight was a special guest was in the house. A music legend in some circles from the 70ds. He is still playing and currently just back from a European tour. We met near the door when I entered, almost right away. Introduced by a mutual friend. All being from the Bay Area. We chatted a bit, nice to chat, blah blah I made my hello rounds and started getting ready for my curtain call.

I expected things to be a little different than planned in the arrangements tonight. However quite a bit from what i was expecting. I was called and asked to do something with Paul Jackson and a couple of other unknowns to me just a local band. I had planned on playing a couple of songs with a some certain people. I did end up with my drummer for one song. 
So Paul did a song , and I played Bass for him, he did keyboards. That is not something that happens often. Then we did another song. This time him on Bass, me singing and doing harmonica. This time i did not have the drummer that knew what i wanted to do. This other guy was good though. He did make it Funkier than what i expected, to that threw me off a bit but was ok once a adjusted my head to. Sadly no one got pictures of that time, Paul Jackson backing me up. 
We did one other song with Paul singing, played Harp. It was really more of Jam than a real song.
The rest of the evening as pretty normal with groups playing varied members. I sat in with another band on Harmonica again. The usual overload of Harmonica players was less to night. So I got to play with an all Japanese band doing blues. They were good. The night wrapped up with the usually c-yas. I spent the night at my friend’s as usual when I go to this. It is fairly near we catch the last rain from the club and make it there easy.
The next morning I head out for home. Again with no map, just memory cells. I awake at 6:00 am after not sleeping most of the night. I arrived home about 9:00 am. I did stop for breakfast and a convenience store so it was not all spent travel. Also tea with my friend in the a.m.
So to was a long day having done the sailing class, which went ok. Considering I had to do it in Japanese. And some of the things the guy just did not get so i had to be creative. I think he got it it at least mentally. Could he do it in practice that is different, but i did not need to have him try fortunately. We were out earlier and the sea was a bit rough, more than this man could deal with with out more time, which was out for the day. His was just a very basic class, so it was ok.
It was a long but good day.

One door closes…

The day started for me at 4:30 a.m. Insane! However, I wanted to not rush and I needed to catch an early train. So once I really woke up after checking my equipment I did some Zazen. Once upon a time when i was doing Kung Fu tournaments, I stopped thinking of them as competitions but as places to do demos of my skills and art. That took the stress , or at least reduced it. This was my mind set for the day. At least that was my goal. Just being in the moment doing a demo, doing my best at the demo. Fully present in each moment, the end did not matter only the now moment.

It turned into a long day. I made it through with the help of friends and strangers.
I made it to the end train station with no problem. However once there I took the wrong direction. After walking a bit I felt I should ask if I was going correct. How lucky I did. The guy told me I was going the opposite way from where I wanted!! I had seen some kyudoka walking in this direction so figured this was the way. Wrong!Turns out they were going to McDonalds! 😦I went back to the train station. I checked my map. Hmm. Ok I see my error. Still I thought I would ask again. There were a group of young Kyudoka standing on the side. I asked them. One said he would take me there. Helpful kindness from a stranger! Yokatta!! We walked and chatted a bit. Some of which I did not understand, but that was ok. I am sure he was tickled to be talking with me. His guess what happened to me today story 🙂
Once there at the Dojo he went his way, and I looked for a place to sit, since the building was not open as yet. A short time later I spotted a couple of my school mates. One came over and said hello and said I should join them. I did so, and greeted the others as they arrived. I wore my South Ca seminar Kyudo T-shirt, they found that interesting.
When the building open we went in and got a spot. It was great that my schoolmates where there as I did not know what was going on. They watched out for me and made sure I was and went where I was suppose to be! I would have missed the written test if they had not been watching out for me. Again yokatta for the kindness.
One thing was a bit strange was not having a changing room. The men all changed right there in front of everyone in the waiting hall. So I did as well. not really a big deal. You can change without exposing and for a old hippie not a earth shaking thing anyway to be nude. Still as a modest person it did give me a few moments of thought.
Due to my Schoolmates watching out for me I was able to make the written test. I have no idea it was going on. It was posted in Japanese the times, and place, but I had no clue it was there or what. I was gathered up by a couple of Schoolmates and taken to the location. Yokatta!
In the written test room. The questions were written on the board in kanji. I kind of understood what they were from hearing them as he wrote. However I was not sure. Just as I was about to ask if I had English question a Sensei came over and spoke to me. He gave me a paper with my questions in English circled. Yakatta!
After a while he came back and asked if I was ok. I said fine and thanked him. After I was finished and thinking if I should do something. Another Sensei comes over and tells me that the test is over at blah blah time. It was already 2 minutes past that. I thank him and said i was finished. He said I could turn in my test if so. (No one else had so that was why I was waiting). So I got up and went to the front. I turned in my paper and walked away. I was called back and told I needed to put my name age and number on the bottom. I did so, thanked him again and left bowing the door. They smiled and waved. Everyone was kind. Did I mention I was the ONLY foreigner there that day. I usually stand out, but today I really stood out. However I did not feel uncomfortable at all at any point.
Next was the l-o-n-g w-a-i-t. My number was 89 so there was a long wait for me. I figure out one shocking point! I was Ochi, the last in the line up. oMG! This was going to be a challenge. My knee was ok, but I had not done any long term practice on kneeling because of the injury. Ok, I was going to need strong spirit to pull this off. It was not going to be pleasant. I prepared myself. During some of the waiting time I did some Zazen, I did some light TaiChi, I stretched, I waited. From time to time someone from our group would go shoot, we all went to watch and give spiritual support.
There was a time I went to warm up on the Makiwara, there was a woman front of me. Later I find out she is in my group. She had her name written on her hakama in Kanji. This Kanji in Chinese says Shaolin. I thought how cool, it must be a sign!
Oh, before I got in line to practice, I was putting on my Yukake and a Sempai saw my purple inner glove, he said I should wear white. Ok so that was twice I was told, so I changed to a white spare I had and made a mental note white at test time.
Finally finally finally I was up. I was fairly calm. I had seen one of the ladies show another some finger thingy that looked like a Ninja sign which was suppose to help relax the body. I did not use it. I breathed like doing Chan. A couple of the people in line spoke to me with the usual questions. Slowly we made our way up to the entrance.
So now it was “on” ! It was explained about the entrance, and exit and taking short steps. The Sensei who spoke to me easier repeated it to me in English. I had figured out what was happening before hand, but it was good to have it clear. Ok, show time!
We entered bowed and did our line up. I could see all my school mates including Watase Sensei who had shown up earlier, on the side. This taken in via my side vision. I tuned them out. I only concerned myself with holding kiza. After doing Ikasu for the opening part I let my left knee down a bit to rest since I knew it was going to be a long wait. I figured as I was last in the line no judge could see me. I waited, I breathed. I noticed one judge bend out a little and look in my direction, I lifted myself a bit more. I breathed. Finally I could stand, ahhhhhhhh. Relief. Now I went through each setup motion. Then it was my turn to shoot. Again I only thought about each step and everything I had told to have on place, to do and not to do! I shot!
I gave no thought to the arrow after that. My thoughts were holding Zanshin, looking elegant as the Kacho said. Not rushing Zanshin. Then on the proper way to lower the Yumi as Yamashita Sensei and Watase had said. Then back into Kiza. The proper steps to raise the Yumi and hold.
This time I held ikasu the whole time. Although a bit higher than the palm space called for. Now the effort and waiting was starting to take it’s toll. I felt myself shaking with the effort to maintain my position. The people in front wanted to also to their best so no one was rushing through their shots. Therefore I was kneeling longer this time around as it was those in front last chance. Mentally I told them to hurry. Mentally I told me to hang in there. Breath.
Finally my turn again. I stood and focus on each step. I was so drained from the kiza I could not see clearly at first. I drew Chi ( ki) and focus my effort. Once in Kai, my cheek knocked the arrow off placement. Usually this is where I miss the shot because of the lack of focus after the reset. This time as I was the last shooter I felt no reason to rush into the shot. I simply turned my head more and refocused, then released.
Again once the arrow was gone I gave it no thought. Thought went to Zanshin, closing then exiting. Exiting was tricky. The whole arrangement was different from Kishiwada Dojo. Step in with the right, leave with the left step. No matter how well you did up until then if you stepped out wrong, you fail!
I had seen others had done only one step back, after shooting. I did so then turned and walked to the exit point. I could feel and see many eyes on me. It was a tricky exit. I followed as I had practiced. Step step step turn, bow, then step step, turn step leave. For the most part I did it correct. The most important part stepping with the left foot out was done. However when turning I made more of a angle turn than a straight right angle turn. That gave me concern. My helpful school bud was there as I exited, with smiles and words of congrats. I had not only hit, but hit with both shots, the only one on the group. One of the shots centered I was told later. I was just relieved to have made one and made it through as Ochi…again! This was the second Shinsa I had to do Ochi. It sucked then too, but did not seem as bad as this one.
Everyone back at our circle was happy for me and gave omedetous! Another of my schoolmates was also up for San-dan, she missed both her shots. I felt bad for her. There was some sadness within my joy. I thought at school she shot better than me.
Now we hung out and waited for the final results and the last couple of people from our group to shoot. Another schoolmate had joined us late. He brought us cookies. Several of us gathered with Watase sensei and had cookies. I thought it was a good photo op. So I stopped one of the passing official Sensei, the one who had spoken to me earlier and asked would he take a picture. I saw looks of shock on a couple of faces when I asked from my schoolmates. Then smiles, when he smiled and said ok. Sometimes the Gaijhin pass comes in handy. I am guessing it would one of those things a traditional Japanese would not ask a Sensei at a Shinsa. I would not have also but I had spoken to this one earlier. I knew he was cool. 🙂
Ok more waiting, a couple of more schoolmates did their thing. Only one of the last 3 or 4 made the required two hits for the yon-dan rank. This is another level. I watched several of those testing shoot. Out of the three or four line ups, usually only one person made both shots. So something like 3 or 4 out of 15 made both hits.
Ok, so we are done now have to wait for the written results. I was not too concerned about that. There were two questions. Describe the Kihon-Taikei and describe what you gained from learning Kyudo. Ok the second question how can you get that wrong. So no concern by default I got 50% . I did not know how they graded but still one question had to be correct. I used a lot of key words from the kyohon to answer. The first part I just for the most part repeated what was in the book, perhaps not the same structure , but the same base and their keywords.
Ok, finally the results are posted. There was a rushed wall of people descending on the post. I waited. I dislike crowds. Several asked if I was going I said I will wait. I couple of my group came back smiling as saying Omedetou, the wait was over! As the crowd eased I went over and found my name with the red circle. It was official. yatta! Looks like out of some 50 people only about 8-10 made San-dan out of some 50 who tried.
I was really touch throughout the whole event by the support feeling given by the Kishiwada group to the school members. Sugoi such a feeling of family. I had a small taste of this at the last seminar and test in the states, but nothing as supportive as this group. Even down to one person saying she would hold everyone’s important stuff while we were busy, phones, wallets, camera etc, so we did not have to worry about them. After it was all over one of the sempai called the Kaicho, he spoke to me on the phone and gave his congratulations.
Next I was collected by my schoolmates to go pay. I was shown which line to get in. I handed over the cash. Afterward the Sensei said something to me, that I did not get at all. There was something that I needed to see or get, or something and he pointed. Sorry to be late. Oh boy! This was a problem, I left the line bewildered figuring I will need to sort this out someway. I figured to go back to the written test room see if there was someone who would say something to me. This was the only place in the direction he was pointing.
I walked down the hall and Yamashita Sensei came up to me, smiling. Perfect he said you did perfect. Omedetou. Then he explain that my Yumi needed to be taken to a shop. Something about the bend or shape was wrong, showed me the holding spots on my hand. The shop could fix it, but as it was, it was dangerous. Possible to break (I think) and injure my hand. I asked if I needed a new one, he said mine could be fixed by the shop. I do not know if it is worth the cost, but I will check. In the mean-time I will use the borrowed one from Karamatsu-san over at MU.
I will be returning to once a week dojo practice and doing Makiwara at home in between dojo visits for the next few months. I have a six month wait period before I can attend another Shinsa. That would be around Dec. however it looks like there is none until March. I am thinking I may wait until April and join the one in Nagoya. It gives me more time. However it is cheaper to go local and just visit Nagoya to meetup with people. There is time and much practice between now and then so I will deal with the now. now. It is the Chan way.
It will be quiet here on Kyudo posts for a while. The next event is a Tai Kai in Aug. which I have plans to attend. Otherwise it will be just quiet practice and training on the long and winding road to Renshi.
One more, 
Epiloge: (two days later)
I went to the dojo today. I wanted to bring something ( snacks) for the elders and others who helped me over this past year to thank them. It was not my usual day but I will be busy the next couple of weeks with sailing instructor training on my regular day. And next week another Band gathering, Blues for Bali concert. This time I am picking my band players!
Everyone there at the Dojo was pleased that my efforts paid off. They, the seniors also checked over the Yumis I brought in. One from CA 18 kg bamboo and the one from Karamatsu-san, a 15kg Carbon. Everyone agreed the Bamboo was nice , but too much for me, as in too much effort was needed to shoot. I did a couple of shots with it today. The first time since Ca, with my improved way of Hikiwake. I was able to shoot ok, but it is a struggle and with my weak shoulder I do not think it is a good idea to continue with it use. I will therefore sell it. I can use the money to fix or replace the Yumi from the European ( or maybe he is American, but not Symanski who makes great bows.) maker. I recall Yamashita sensei saying something about the shape of the other Bamboo and my hand points. Today with these Yumi, the Yumi turned/rotated almost fully in my hand. Something I have been unable to do with the other Yumi. Hmmmm.
Another first today was I shooting with no corrections from the Kacho. I just followed what I was told before and did the other day. My Hikiwake feels much more comfortable. I know it still needs some adjustment, but it was nice just to shoot today and try out the different Yumi, with no pressure.

The long and winding road…

I doubt if the average person who even knows about Kyudo has any idea how difficult it is. Like Tai Chi, it looks easy enough, but only because someone put in a lot of time making the movement look easy, natural. I have been doing this for some 5 yrs now and I am just now understanding, the complexity of the details. There is a saying in Tai Chi Chuan that it takes 10 yrs to understand the basics. When I first heard that I thought whatttt, no way. After 10 yrs, and time with a good teacher, I understood. I am understanding now why it is said until you reach Yon-dan you are still a beginner. Or something like that.

It is not just about hitting, it is about looking good while you are doing it. It is not just about looking good and hitting, but looking good, and hitting with a certain spirit. Looking good, spirit, relaxed, natural body and hitting. There are certain details to looking good, hitting, with a strong spirit, and elegance, with certain details, boundaries, criteria and alignments. It is in fact the essence of the Zen philosophy that everything is connected, everything is codependent on everything else. There is no duality, it is the same in Kyudo. Like a tree, if the roots are poor, tree will be weak.
It is simple enough to pull the bow and arrow and even hit the target perhaps. That does not make it good kyudo. It can be called archery, perhaps even good archery, but not good Kyudo. If the angle of the hand, ether hand is incorrect…No good! One may hit, but that does not make it good Kyudo. When one makes that change to the correct hand angle, the hit no longer occurs. You shift the balance of your body forward, backward or to the side, turn your foot differently, lower the angle of your shoulder. The truth, ( the arrow flight, the hit ) changes. 
It is interesting when the Kaicho is directing me as I go onto Kai and once there settle in to his directions, i can feel things click into place and the Truth expresses itself at the moment of release. Before it hits I know it will hit as it is in flight. Repeating that over and over and over is the challange. How was the breath at that moment, how were my arms, balance, hand tension, chest expansion, extension to the mato, extension away from the mato, the counter extension. The yin to the yang punch it would be called in Kung Fu. The counter action in science terms.
There are no same drops of water in the ocean, no same two days, snowflakes, yet one needs that sameness, or as close to it as possible each time one shoots…and still express elegance, refinement.
Shinsa is two days away I am still struggling to express the same truth in my shots. Truth as in everything is as should be, before this moment. Before I make this flower, which is the release of the arrow, the hit, all of the tree is in harmony with itself. My hit percentage has dropped over the last week. I am still adjusting details. I did not push the same on that shot, my arm angle is different, my Hikiwake balance is off, my elbow path is not on the same plane of travel, the angle of my Daisan, Toyrikaki, too much tension in my forearm. I am feeling like a cluts. My confidence going into this is low. Better than my first try at San-dan, but lower than I think it should be. On one hand it is not good to be overconfident, yet under is also not good. There needs to be the middle ground. My determination will not be so focused on “winning” but being “present”, mindful at each step. Having Sanmi-Ittai. Doing my best with spirit and focus. This is the Shaolin Chan way. This is Chan practice. This is also my self pep-talk…

The plot thickens…

I thought there was the a tragedy afoot. Two nights ago, I did not get much sleep. For some unknown my knee started hurting and got worse as the night went on. By morning I could barely walk. The worse and ,y real concern throughout was no way I can do Kiza! I do not know if there is enough time for me to put in to the shinsa to do the standing form. Will it make a difference? That was a big concern. There was no reason I could think of for the knee problem. 
I had a Doctor appt that day for my BP, so I told him about the knee. He did not seem the least concerned. Maybe because I did not make it an issue. It was however a little better by this point and LZ had given me some Japanese patch. I could not only walk by then I had rode my bike to the doctor. It was painful but doable. I could feel an improvement over late last night.
LZ was of the mind it was my body reacting to the anger I had from the recent contact from the nut case in Tahiti. I did not think so. I thought more likely the new shoes I purchased. Even though I had only wore them to walk to the store and back about 30 min total. Still I thought it weird that my Pain did not start until many hours after I had removed the shoes.
Anyway I changed to some old shoes just in case and went about what I needed to do for the day. taught my Chan class, rode the bike a little, took the train to my PT gardening job, cut the lawn and did some yard work. The pain was there but not so bad at times. Still it felt painful to bend and no way I could do Kiza.
The next day I went to Kyudo. The knee felt better but still weak. I told the Kaicho about the problem and asked if I could learn and do the standing form just incase I was not healed by Sunday. This was not a problem I was told. I thought I would need a Doctors note, but as it turns out only needed was a note from someone of rank at the school. There was also something about since I was not a testing mudan I could do the standing form. So that was a relief.
On the way home I stopped by the acupuncturist office since I go by there to get home. I was told he is open the next day but only in the morning. I said ok, I will be back and told him my problem.
That evening the pain lessened I could feel a recovery. It felt almost strong enough to do Kiza. Late that evening I tried it, and it worked, but shaky. My range of motion had also increased, but I did not want to over do it. We had gone out to dinner over at our friends that evening and wore good shoes since we need to walk and if the shoes where the problem and did not want to reactivate the problem with the new shoes.
This morning my knee felt almost normal. I tried Kiza and it was fairly ok. Still I went to the Acupuncturist just in case. He checked me over, plugged me in, massaged, punctured, soniced and taped me. I feel ok now, very little discomfort and my range of motion is full again. I tired Kiza once and it was doable.
Tomorrow I go to the Dojo again. I will advise Sensei I am healed enough. I did consider going with the standing form anyway, I felt like I would be cheating of sorts since it is so much easier to do. Still without really needing to and I passed I would feel somewhat lessened in quality and status…like I cheated. So I will give the knee a full rest today and a test Tai Hai tomorrow. If it is ok, I will be back on track and reshift my full my concern on back to shooting.
When I was shooting the other day, the Kaicho watched. I did not receive the usually open your chest more comment, just I needed to raise my right elbow a little more and think to make elegant image when I am in Zanshin. So I must be making progress, even though my hit rate sucked. I was also given the list of questions selections that will be chosen from not only on this test but also the Yon-dan test. I thought maybe I was getting special treatment, but it is only in that I am getting the translated version as I saw the Japanese version posted on the dojo wall. Very different from the states where it is like a big mystery. One has to go on line and search what someone had posted questions from years past. Then it is said these questions have shown in the past, they may or may not be on your test now. The list I was given had two sections, about 8 question in each. Next to it was a check box for the rank testing, from Sho-dan through Yon-dan

Another day another arrow


It was another Kyudo day. Sat at Kishiwada Gym is a busy day. Last week or last Sat I was there, there were Judoka everywhere. Today there were Kendoka everywhere. It was packed. The kyudojo was also busy. High school students, and regular folks. I thought most would be gone when I arrived but no!

I stalled for a while hoping it would clear up, but the regular peeps showed up so it stayed busy all day. So I just merged. 
I found another person testing with me next week. Also spoke to another I knew of, seems I am not the only one with the jitters. 
Overall I think I shot well today. I always learn something new. Yamashita Sensei was there and watched me shoot. Of course I got a few pointers. One not to do with shooting but how to return the bow proper to Toriyumi position. He answered a question I had about being in the Tai Hai line up. The Kaicho was also there helping. I think I am making some advancement. Even if it is small. There are some things that are repeated to me and I try to implement but easier to understand than to do. I do try though. This is how i failed my first try at SanDan trying to do what the Sensei said at the seminar instead of just shooting. 
I do worry sometime if I’m frustrating to the Sensei saying some of the same things over and over. I was told by a Sensei in the States when I was looking to join his dojo that he gets tired of repeating the same thing to students who do not remember. Therefore I could not join his school unless I could attend every week. Well I do remember, however sometimes it takes a while to do. Even when attending more than once or twice a week.
Well anyway. There is a week of training still ahead. I will go to the dojo three times this week. It is good to attend Kishiwada, at the other Temple Dojo o could only go in on SAT and Sunday. Here the only day they are closed is Monday. The Shinsa is Sunday. I will rest and meditate on Sat. Embracing one of the Kihon Taikei. # 5 Working of the Spirit and Spiritual Energy.
“One of the characteristics of Kyudo is that it demands strict self-control and stability of emotions”

By this time next week it will be over. A thing I read in Mad Magazine in my youth comes to mind. “Why Worry” only two things can happen to you. You will live or die. If you live, you have chances to do better, so no worries. If you die only two things will happen. You will go to heaven or to Hell. If you go to heaven, nothing to worry about. If you go to Hell you will have a lot of friends to see, so Why worry! 🙂
Well in this case only two things will happen. I will pass or I will not.
If I pass then I have to go back to practicing to get better.
If I do not pass I have to go back to practicing to get better.
So why worry ne!
There is also the Zen saying about before Zen you chop wood and carry water, after Zen you chop wood and carry water.

Count down to Shinsa

My expectations for practice at the dojo have changed. No longer do I hope for an uninterrupted practice, I expect that not to happen. And funny enough a little Universe joke, I had it. Well at least for about 30 min. When I arrived everyone was leaving or had left for lunch. I sort of planned that. Anyway I was able to get a few shots in without distraction.

When the Kaicho showed up he said he had something to tell me, or something like that. I knew he wanted to speak with me. What it was they, the Osaka Renmei was concerned about my written test. So they had the Kaicho show me a list of questions that would show up on the test, to see if I could understand them. 
I explained yes I could understand what was written. However there were a couple of terms I had not heard of but I could study from the Kyohon. I asked if I could copy the questions. He said sure ok. How cool is that! There were two sets of questions, part “A” had Kyohon questions, parts “B” had why did you start Kyudo type questions. I wonder if to meet Japanese girls is a wrong answer? However seriously I know exactly what to study now. That is a big help.
Ok, so on to shooting, yeah, corrections. More expansion of the chest. It also seems I am still bending my wrist to wrong way during Hikiwake. I will need to correct that. I think I finally get what the Kaicho was saying about my Daisan. He said I was coming directly down from my Daisan across my face into Kai. So I moved my Daisan out more so I could come down at an angle. However that cause me to throw my shoulder back at a weird angle. I need to take the middle path. Only about a fist away from my head and angle in from there, whilst moving my elbow to pull on a straight line back, but do not cut off my pull in from of my face. Also I need to have my Torikake more to the right of my head. I am too shallow. When I follow what the Kaicho is saying to me while he is there, it is scary how straight the arrow flys and I hit center. I just need to do that consistently. That is the hard part.
One thing I notice perhaps more so today when even the Kaicho was getting advice from a younger sempai. Is that everyone at least upper ranks get help from others. I see the Kaicho often correct Watase Sensei even though the Kaicho is a ( slightly) lower rank. Even the Kaicho today was being helped with raising/relaxing his shoulders today by a Godan (she maybe a Renshi now). Then he turned around and helped Watase Sensei. Most interesting. I do recall my Sensei in the states asking me to watch him though for errors or adjustments needed in his form. It seems to be an on going process of learning , adjusting, readjusting. I often see upper ranks come into practice and miss many shots.

One of the things I took notice of today was Yukake inner lining. What the Sempai had said to me the other day was still on my mind. More so when i looked at my hand a certain way I could see the lining. Also the design pattern on mine made it look dirty. I could see where a white one would look better. I checked out the others, most where white today. Hmm I thought. Ok, I have some purple ones I will start wearing. It matches the tie, that should be ok, and it will show dirt less than a white one and match my trim misc.
I asked another classmate who is doing Shinsa with me, how she was. She laughed nervously, I understood the wordless communication. Ganbarimasho I said!

Too much help?

Perhaps sometimes there can be too much help…

Tired again today, I took the train to the Dojo. I was close to over doing the bike this week with the heat. I had planned on taking the train to my temp gardening job, but, I rode the bike. It was not bad, but yesterday and today my legs are spent. 
I arrived at the Dojo, there was no one there, zero. I am surprised and pleased. Finally I can get some uninterrupted, focused practice. I got the key from the office, a first for me. Everyone knows me so not a biggie. I opened the store room, got my equipment and set up the mato for one. Whoohoo!
I made myself ready , I thought I would also get in in a few pictures and film a bit so my friend in CA could critique me in English. No sooner than I settled in I hear noises. A person from the office has come in with two people. He asks me something which I have no idea is. All I understood was “daijoubu deska?” I figured whatever it can not be much of a big deal so I say ok. It turns out it is a girl and her mother, they are interested in kyudo and wanted to watch me practice. Sigh…so much for my peaceful practice.
I went on about my business. I had purchased a new pair of Ya. Seems to me they flew higher than my old ones. Or maybe it is me. Anyway no hits from them. For that matter not much from the old one either. I am working in some corrections from the other day with the Sensei. Change something, change everything.
A short while passes, very short about two shots and a Sempai shows up. She asks me to put up a couple more Mato when I go retrieve my ya. I comply, and go back to shooting.
After my next set, I am told I am shooting low, reason is because I am leaning toward the mato, I need to stay centered. I have heard that before. I make a mental note to adjust that more. Also I need to open more at Hanare I am tending to close up. Yup another reminder, this is why my shots are on the right of the mato. Helpful!
Next she wants me to go through Tai Hai with her. Of course I say ok. (do I have a choice ) Afterward I get an OK! Yokatta! Even though I feel there are a couple of points I need to refine overall, I am comfortable with it. I have for the most part incorporated the corrections from the other Sempai(s) (is there as “s” if pural?).
Yatta! Ok, back to shooting, I work on staying centered. Sempai watches then gives some pointers. after asking about my shoulder. She shows me the chart on the wall. Seems I have been focused on keeping my arms, both of them level at at the same height in Kai. However it is not so, the left is a little high, and the right is a little bit low, once in Zanshin they are level. Hmmm ok. Helpful. Also I am told I am “pushing” with my right too soon, I should start my hikiwaki with my left “pull” then follow with the right, then as I am coming out of DaiSan balance them out and stay centered. Wow, helpful, but a lot. Easy to say and understand, hard to do. I am also suppose to do Hiwaki from Daisan at an angle not come direct down the side of my face. Something the Kaicho said.
Another Sempai is also there he arrived shortly after her. After I am done with another set of ya he says, something about do not be so short with my Zanshin. Everyone that knows I am testing is helpful, but how do you process and incorporate all this. Maybe this is why there are less details covered in the states, only what is needed for the next test level. More of the big picture then work on the details later. Kind of the western school system these days. 
I noticed that with my Kung Fu practice around Sisuk as well. Even if I am just out cruising through practice, working on something, I am corrected, called on for over looking some small thing leading up to that application, movement or something.
So can one get too much help, hmmm. I guess. If one gets in the habit of sliding over things, leading up to whatever it is your focus is on, makes one forgetful, and sloppy when it is needed. The word mindful comes to thought. Full completion of one moment (action) as perfect as possible before moving to the next. So yeah, I can not work on a good, Dosukuri if my Ashibumi is lame. Shifu says of do a thousand kicks and you will understand the correct way to do them. Sisuk says, why do a thousand kicks if 900 of them are wrong. Correct it in the beginning. Both are masters, styles Philosophies are different. So yeah, I guess it is better for me to be corrected now, getting the help, even of it upsets my practice plan. So when I shoot 1000 ya or 100, 80% will not be wrong. The time I lose now correcting some small point can save me time later…rational thought.
So can there be too much help…
Like most things in life, yes and no. One needs to be on the correct path, with the correct form. however one still needs time, focus, internal study to make it all come together. 
This post may not make sense to anyone but me, just doing some musing.
On the other hand…I was told by this same Sempai that it looks nicer if I wear a white inner glove with my Yukake rather than the black dragon print I have…
Perhaps that starts getting into the too much help area.
count down…t-minus 2weeks
Oh Flash: Today is the one year anniversary of leaving Mexico for Hawaii. What a long strange trip it’s been.