Yondan Shinsa -I
Finally the day was here. A lot of mental trips before hand.
The day before: I went into the Kyudojo…
I planned on about an hour of practice then gather my stuff and go home. I thought I would be fairly alone. No, wrong there. there was a fair amount of people almost of of those testing plus some regulars. I shot, so so. Needed to take some time to short out some string issues. Shot a little more, then called it a day. I was @ 30% and only once was two together. I wrapped it up for the day, I was ready. I said the usual good nights, sorry to leave first blah blah. I passed the Kaicho at the elevator. He said something about good luck and stuff. I said tomorrow is only my practice day, daijoubu ( no problem) and headed for home with my gear…
That evening :
Shower, dinner, packing, etc.
Watched some internet TV. I am so thankful for that. We do not have TV. Some of the shows I love, I got to watch some of them before we left the states, some I just plain missed. I am catching up now, fun. I did some study of the Kyudo Manual. After which I played my Shakuhachi then I did some Zazen/Chan-ding. Followed by off to bed after finishing some packing. I needed to be up at 5:00 to make my train to the Gym! An Hour and a half ride.
The next morning:
I was up , out and off to the train station early, and on time arriving. I made my train connections, easy. As I got near to my stop on the final train, other Kyudojin got on. I knew I had right stop when we all got off together. This time I had no problem finding the the location, unlike for my SanDan test at the same location. I arrived first again today. This time though no one came that I knew…
I went right into the building once the doors opened, it was cold and I needed to get a spot to settle. I got a spot and started to change. At that time one Sempai came in, I waved him over, a short bit after that another showed up. I was surprised there were no others. After a while though two others showed up…and then there were six.
We all got checked in, and our place in line and settled in for the wait. We had nothing to do until just after lunch. Saddly for me I once again was Ouchii. I took that as a bad sign. I had already accepted I was not going to pass but now I had to suffer through Tai Hai again as the last in the line up. Sigh I took a breath and accepted the thought of what was to come.
Meanwhile, everyone changed and soon it was time for the opening ceremony. It was cold cold! I was glad brought along my Kimono top jacket. It was not a great help but it was something!
There opening Shiza was first by a Nana dan or something. He missed his first shot, hit with the second. Next came all the judges, of mixed rank. Five of them. They lined up and shot, all but one missed. I thinking, kind of hypocritical to make another do something you can not, but they did once to get there, so… anyway Second arrow for all. All hit but two. Hmmmm. Went my thoughts.
Everyone returned to the staging area and the process began. I like most of the others in my group studied for the written test. We all hung-out, studied, some napped.
I met finally a “friend” from Facebook a Kyudo connection. Last year she did nto attend, but sent over her friend to welcome me and gave me a little snack to eat. It came in very handy, I did not bring food or plan on it. I was hungry hungry. This time I brought my lunch with me. Anyway met her finally she was testing for Ni-dan.
The lower ranks tested first….
Then it was lunch time…
for the most part we from Kishiwada all had lunch together and did the other groups. Pretty normal I guess, I am just use to going off somewhere and quietly eating alone.
and then afterwards…
After lunch I like the others got ready for some Makiwara shots. Little by the little regular Senior Sempais came in and joined our group. I guess they had been told earlier what time we were starting and arrived in time for that. It was good to see them all.
Now there were about 12 or so of us. I had come across some of the members from Bampaku that I knew earlier. They had a large group I only knew a couple of people. One of who was also testing for Yondan. Anyway it was nice to have the Kishiwada group there.
And so it started, first we took our written test. I was told what to fill out where on the answer sheet and helped by a woman who spoke basic English. Then another head Sensei gave me the questions on a sheet, told me which one goes where. Got it! A short while later a fair English-speaking Sensei came to check on what/how I was doing. It was all good. Once finished I handed in my paper, the first to be done. Really the same question I had last time, so no sweat. After handling in my test the English speaker said oh boy more work for me. Sumimasen, I said smiling, he laughed, saying daijoubu! On that note I left, the easy part done! Now for the hard stuff.
It was still a short whole before everything was in place for theYondan testing. I was in the first group 😦 ,Ouchii!! San-dan began to prepare various ways….like this picture below…I said they were doing Zen in a real Martial Art Kyudo Environment, on a FaceBook forum ( Having been told I would be better off at one that was not a real Martial Art based Dojo in the States by a Sensei there, because my email address had the word Zen in it. I should go elsewhere to learn Kyudo, I would be happier and fit in. No questions about me, only seeing my email address) and OMG what a firestorm of comments. It does not take much to stir up the Zen Haters. Kind of funny.
There was an announcement and everyone ( yondan test) got up And started for the door. I asked a sempai what is this? Do I need my Yumi? Is it now? A meeting, I am told but bring your Yumi to the staging area, in so many words more or less. In the mian dojo the Sandans line up. A lot is said none of which I got. I did figure out after a bit that some of it was, testing for YonDan was serious business, they would be checking certain items for content and quality. The they listed what they were going to be looking at. They ended with Ganbarimasu!
Ok, out to the staging queue, and …get set…go
We lined up to go on the floor. It is a tight area, I kind of hang back and let the leaders get organized, …and they start. I join and prepare to step, as I am about to, step onto the dojo floor I feel someone adjusting my sleeve, this throws off my attention and I step out on the floor with the wrong foot. Doh!!!! I think, oh great well all is lost for sure now, I know the judges saw that. I go through the rest of the formalities. I kneel, ok, I figure I have already blown it and being last, no one can see that well, so once I lift my knee for the knocking routine, I lightly touch my left knee back down to lessen the strain I know is coming, as each arrow is slowly set free.
Maybe I should just learn the standing form, I think to myself.
Ok finally my turn, I stand, lock and load. Show time. I draw thinking only of the steps. I release, the ya hit, everyone looks, just barely inside the mato.
I re-seat myself, now just thinking about making through the next session. Not too bad with the hidden light knee, not pleasant but, doable. I am up again, set, line up, release. Softer noise this time, not the sound of a hit. Still everyone looks. The ya is right next to the other but just 1/4 in outside the mato, the sound was the Ya hitting the outside edge. Ok, all done here wheww. I made it through, no prize but still I am feeling a sense of pride that I made it through and my grouping was tight, off, but tight. I exit and head back to staging area one to change.
Next up, after I change are my other Sempai. Time to have moment of joy or sadness. I and the others watched as they all took their turns. It was raining and cold now, really raining. Out of our school Yondan test only one made it with two hits.
Still everyone was in good spirits even the Sempai who had already tried now 14 times! We had donuts, and sat around chatting and joking, waiting for the finally results.
Once in the lower Dan ran to the board to check, those who passed jumped up and down! My sempai and the other went of to check the Yondan group, yup our dojo just had one, he had passed! We all congratulated him! It was all over now. 3 out of 55 passed the Yondan Shinsa. Serious business, Yondan!!
I had found out that the next Shinsa for Yondan was not at this location as I thought, but at Banpaku, my first Japan dojo, that excited me. I thought perhaps this is fate to return to my starting spot for Yondan exam. Perhaps Nogami Sensei’s spirit will be there and help me, even if not it would make him very pleased if I could become Yondan there. That would be epic! That is my goal now, Yosh!!!
After all this I headed to another part of town for some music connections, visiting and friends at a local club.I am loaded down, Kyudo gear and my Bass…under crying skys.
I came across a band member and his girlfriend. I chatted here and there and had a salmon wrap , hmm yummy with home-made Sangria to wash it down. Nice, good feeling about the day, full stomach, a lil buzz from the wine…Life is good. I head homeward.
Now I thought my Kyudo brain was down for the day except for planning what training was needed for the June Shinsa. Well I was wrong. I am almost home, changing trains. A guy give me the once over and asked is that a Yumi I have. I tell him yes and he starts talking. He is a Godan lives nearby. Next town over from me in fact. We chat all the ride home to my stop. Nice guy, a couple of years older than me. I give him my card. Perhaps we will meet again. He was interested in Kishiwada as a another practice place, even more so when I showed him it was inside!
A pleasant ending to a pleasant day. Now I have my first Shakuhachi lesson to look forward to on Monday…cool!!