When I first started Kyudo I practiced with the Shibata Kyudo group. We had our class at the Shambhalah Meditation Center in Berkeley, Ca. I enjoyed it. We did a short 10 min mediation before class. Nothing deep, heavy, profound. Just a simple meditation, a clearing of the mind, releasing the thoughts of other things beside Kyudo. Within this school there are no ranks, the main focus of shooting is to “polish one’s spirit”, Not to hit the target. If fact if you never hit the mato, it did not matter. Your form mattered, your spirit when shooting mattered.
In a way this was unsettling to some because if the Mato did not matter, then why even have it, was the thought. There were other things within this school that cause people to leave. Even the head instructor for my group was later expelled. I believe I heard it was because of her continued association with another expelled teacher, who often came and led seminars. I am unsure of the why of his ousting. Political things are kind of complex, I do not get it. Usually it is the person in power, whose power is threatened by the underlings not in 100% in agreement with the leader’s “way”.
The reason I left the group was because I wanted to practice in Japan, not due to the internal things happening. I just wanted to shoot and the “Zen/Kyudo retreats” were interesting, challenging and pretty fun, in a quiet meditative get-a-way sort of way. Most general practice in Japan is done via the Japan Kyudo Renmei. Shibata sensei’s school was not part of this group. In fact when I said to Nogami Sensei , Hanshi hanchidan, that I studied with Shibata Sensei group, his comment was; “Shibata is a bow maker not a Kyudo Sensei”. Ok, I thought, this is not ground I wish to walk on, and dropped the subject.
From there began my search for a Renmei school on Cal. I will not go into again what a long strange trip that was. Those who know, know.
So here, am in Japan, a San-dan, on the path to Yon-san. Whoa! I think pretty good for five years of study. However, ss pleased as I am with this path, my current teachers, I as stated before, question where this is going. Is all this about tournaments and rank? There is talk of spiritual advancement, cultivation of spirit, the person, within the Kyuhon. Yet I have seen a lacking of that development among some of the “advanced” players in some places. I am being vague on purpose. There is a large accent on technique. Yet the Kyuhon clearly states Kyudo is not all about technique. Technique is only the half face of Kyudo. Ok, So what is this “spirit”, Spiritual side of Kyudo? How does one learn it, if no one teaches it? Is it just a following of the rules of etiquette? “proper behavior? Rei?
What is this “spirit” of, within Kyudo? If one says anything about “Zen” training, meditation, many have a cow. Yet the Kyuhon speaks of Kyudo and “Standing meditation” in the same “breath”. Those few schools that speak of “Zen” training as part of the way of “balanced” Kyudo are pretty much disrespected by the internet forum Kyudo “masters”. I wish my Japanese was better so I could converse with some higher level shooters here in Japan, where in general there seems to be less of a duality. I spoke with a Renshi back when first starting with Nogami Sensei about Zen and Kyudo she basically said there is no separation. understand I am not speaking of “Zen” as the religion. I am speaking of “Zen” as a life style a philosophy and view of living, a “Do”. Perhaps that is the hangup of those “westerners” who get their panties all knocked up when Zen is mentioned with Kyudo. They can not see beyond the religion label.
Anyway, continuing. So there is a group called Muyushingetsu Kyudo they have a website on the states. They are the third Kyudo group in the States. Shibata, Renmei and this Muyushingetsu. I never visited them in the states, but my sempai did. His report was not impressive and I had thought found my direction at the time by then. I sent several emails from here asking about a school of their style here in Japan as I had read the master or former master was/is from/in Osaka. The results, no answers, zip! I tried several times. Nada, zero each time. Yet the website is still up. If I was ignored on purpose, that does not seem very spiritual or within proper etiquette for a sincere inquiry. I suppose spiritual persons can also be rude and jerks as well. Wonder if there is a rule book on being Spiritual, or a top 10 list on spiritual things you do or don’t do if you are spiritual? On the other hand the world is full of posers. Look at all the Priests out there doing the nasty with young boys. Seriously who can be spiritual and do that.
I came across a post on Facebook about the style and it said there was a school linked with a Jodo Buddhist temple in the north. I contacted the posted and asked about getting in touch with someone from there. He gave me the name and email address of someone he said was a Sensei, who ran a Kyudo supply as well. I wrote, rather I had LZ write my translated letter. Lo and behold again no reply! Sigh. The poster had asked that I let him know the progress. Therefore I wrote to him again telling of the no reply. He told me his son once a former shooter from this clan and gave me his email to contact, he could perhaps point me to the right people. I thanked him.
Again I wrote this time to the son telling of my search and issues. I also resent the letter to the “sensei” given to me by the father. This time I tagged my letter with a return notice from the system to notice me if it was delivered, just in case there was an issue with that. This time I receive a reply. Although…rather weird seems to me.
The person said he was not a Sensei, just a disciple. He then asked if I could understand Japanese as he spoke no English so he could tell me about Yumis. I am thinking, huh, WT fukushima!?!? I wrote to him in native Japanese asking about finding a school, he answers me wanting to know if I understood Japanese to tell me about Yumis, nothing about a location of contact for a schoolSigh. Ok, I wrote the Facebook poster. He says ahh good for him being humble, he says he is no sensei but that is the role he does within the dojo. Also he says sometimes takes a lot of talking with them to get information. ok, I get that, the waiting outside the temple to test your desire bit.
So I write to him again, after my wife translates, stating clearly again I am seeking a dojo in or near Osaka. I am not looking for Yumi, bit a dojo. No reply! Again!
Meanwhile the son answers my letter. He says. Ahh I understand your problem I have been there in that situation. Then he says his advice is to try to locate a school in your area and go talk with them. Huh!? WT-Fukushima!?!
That is why I wrote you, I am thinking! If you have been there and understand, why not give me some help instead of telling me to do what I am already doing trying to find a school! unbelievable! Sigh.
Ok, it comes to me that I know someone in the states who I have a good relationship with who has guided me on my Kyudo practice in the past. He also does Muyugetsu his Sensei is from the clan and someone of some “rank”. I ask, can you give me, or ask about a contact here in Japan? I am told he can try, but his line and Sensei have been expelled from the “clan” for some reason. Oh good grief! I am thinking. He says this group tends to be cultist and demand strict obedience to the “clan” .
WTF is everyone trip’n?! ( slang term , meaning they are out of their bloody mind)
Ok, so jehzz. I am thinking, I did not need this. I am interested in the philosophy of Awa Kenzo, whether it was “Zen” or not toward shooting. Some have a cow also about if the book Zen and the art of Zen is BS or not because, the author did not understand Japanese and Awa did not study Zen. Sigh. Small minds, is that really the point? The moon is the goal the target not the finger-pointing to it.
This philosophy toward Kyudo being more than just target practice and a mind disciple does exist. There are others, beside the Shibata group who seek and have studied with more than just rank and tournaments as shown here. Enlightenment, hmmm I do not know. I suppose that would bring up the question of “What is enlightenment”? Perhaps it is not here but Hawaii where the higher aspects of my Kyudo desires lay.
Anywho, I am thinking more I should just study and practice what is in front of me, when the Universe offers more I will take it. Kind of the when the student is ready the teacher will come principal. My teachers now are good. I will just work on technique, tai hai, ranking. My Chan practice is complete for me and has everything I seek. I see the blending of Chan philosophy, stillness with motion, non-duality with my Kung Fu, sailing, daily life, connection to the planet and life. Perhaps that is all there is, and because that does cover all. I can as I did in the States do my own full training practice at one time Meditate, Tai Chi then Kyudo. I do not have a good space for that. However, one can not wait for perfect conditions. I will have to make do with bits and pieces, as now, until such a time I can make a whole. Perhaps it will come sooner than I think, with some new factors that have into play, life wise.
On the other hand, when I understand more of technique with Kyudo, perhaps the rest of the puzzle will fall onto place as I define more of what it is I want, where I want to go. Yamashita Sensei gave me some teachings the other day on breath which I will post about later. I did understand better the breath of Kyudo and the breath of Tai Ch/Kung Fu from this lesson and something my Sensei in the States said about breath and the difference between that of Kung Fu and the breath of Kyudo. With this latest lesson I see the difference more, but, the sameness, not only with the breath but the space of non-breath. Like with music the notes are important, but the rests, the non-notes are perhaps of more importance. Like the white space on a page of graphic design. The quiet space, the stillness of meditation in a life of noise and movement.
On the other hand, maybe I am trip’n.