Shakuhachi Do, finally it has started. Last week was my first lesson. It was interesting. First off there was some background history on the Shakuhachi. Also on breath, and how to breathe correct. That is most interesting, breath, the life force. So major, in Tai Chi, Kung Fu, Kyudo and of course flute, a breath instrument. I see some parallels in the breath with Shakuhachi and the breath with Kyudo. I have not tried this new theory as yet when shooting.
I was given a book to read by some famous American Shakuhachi player, who spent time in Japan. Maybe still lives here. He is a friend of Sensei’s. The book is called “the single note”. basically the story of this guy’s adventure into the traditional world of shakuhachi. He speaks of the philosophy of the old Fuke Zen buddhist sect. They sought to play the perfect note, one that would enlighten them. Everything was focus on this note , this purity of sound, that would hit the mark in their physic and enlighten them. Something like that. It reminded me of the “One arrow, One life” Philosophy on Kyudo. Of some Kyudo clans not caring about shooting 100 arrow a day, but total focus on a small amount even one shot can be enough if totally committed to that shot.
The Fuke Zen sect was an interesting story/legend. However they turned to the dark side and got banned, or something, in short. They were other Shakuhachi monks that came later, who were beggars, but the same idea about the music connection and enlightenment” the connection with our higher self being linked into the ” Force” via music, sounds. There is a book by Victor Wooten which speaks of similar thoughts, but he is coming from a Bass view, but the philosophy is the same. However, there is a different connection from making music with one’s breath, than from plucking a string. This is just my thought.
Anywho, so Sensei speaks in Japanese then in English for the class. I get to practice both. My background in music theory is coming in handy. I can not read note by note, any longer but the theory understanding is there. I need to upgrade my skill with Katakana since traditional Japanese music is written with Katakana and Hiragana some Kanji, not western notation. That will part of the real challenge, and a good reason to better my Japanese.
Sensei had said he was interested in hearing my blues band. I gave him a YouTube link. He said he was impressed and that I should do well with the Shakuhachi, due to my music background. Also it is like the harmonica but much much more difficult. He is a fan of Muddy Waters from back in the day. He like the song we did and looked up the lyrics and music. I think this will be perhaps an interesting connection down the road.
I am writing this just before going to my second class, so I will finish this later.
Just in from class a little while ago. Interesting. My class is listed as 30 to 45 min. I was there from 7:30 until after 9:00 !
I took a few pictures of Sensei’s Shakuhachis tonight!
Some of what I learned tonight is, this linage style of Shakuhachi I am learning came from the Zen Buddhist Linage…Kinko – Fuke Sect.
Karmic or what?! I did not know any of this in the beginning. I just wanted to play Shakuhachi and was lead to him, by “the Force”. My Chan Shifu (Sensei) is from the branch of Zen, same as the Fuki sect, Rinzai.
Also the old licensing system is still in effect. Meaning it is like Kyudo, Akido, dance, etc. you have ranks, and the higher you go the more you pay. My sensei says he does not follow that system, he thinks it is bad. Therefore his disciples have no ranks, (dans) . I was surprised when a Kyudo Sensei told he was such n such dan in Shakuhachi. Japan is still very much a land of contrasts. Modern , yet Old. Anywho, I am not doing this for rank, and that is perfect Sensei does not do it. That saves me a lot of money.
.So sensei said he generally has a printout and gives a talk on the history and traditions of Shakuhachi if I was interested he would have 10 min or so of my class for that in the future. Cool I said, but not using that word.
Music wise I am on drills and breathing, making the proper tone. Smooth solid tone, no vibrato. Breath and posture, highly important… Where have I heard this before.
So learning this Traditional instrument is going to be not just a music lesson , but history lessons on an ancient culture, then and now. Perhaps some interesting reading for my five or six followers. I think there will be some interesting adventures coming from this Shakuhachi Do. Sensei has offered to take me at some point to visit his friend’s shop, a very famous Shakuhachi maker. Also I will later down the line be doing some duets with some Shamisen players Sensei knows. I have an aquantance who teaches Japanese martial arts, is an accupunturist, plays Shamisen , I think there will be some interesting music born in the furture. sensei has already suggested perhaps us doing a musical colaboration in the future. Me on Bass, him Shakuhachi. Interesting path ahead. Certainly not your average expat story(s).