Cross training, different medium, same lesson

When one these days hears of cross training one generally thinks of karate, with kick boxing, or Judo and Muy Tai, and weight lifting, something along those lines. However I am not referring to that. I was speaking with a Zen master the other week, he had said I am perhaps too busy to do my Zen practice these days, at least go by and sit with him at the temple. I said not at all, do my Zazen every morning. He said ah sou ka. Also with your study of Tai Chi, Kyudo, Shakuhachi you are getting the Zen exposure, ne. I said, yes, when I practice my Shakuhachi at night I can feel the same state as doing sitting Zen. I understand how the old monks of Fuke sect used the Shakuhachi as a meditation method. Focus on the breath and the purity of sound is like the focus on my Chakra in Chan .

Recently with the frustration of my Kyudo practice it is a mental and somewhat of a spiritual challenge moving forward. Not as far as continuing, that is a given, but the motivation to strive forward. Overcoming the plateau I spoke of last post. More so now fully understanding it is not just about hitting, technique, the form. There is very much the formless as we call it in Chan. The “form” need is strong, but the formless is stronger , harder to gasp. Still at my level it is more about the “form”, but can not forget the formless, otherwise the form is empty. This point was raised in my Shakuhachi class yesterday. It brought to mind a saying by Jimi Hendrix, ” it is easy to play the Blues, but hard to feel “. In Kyudo it would be it is easy to shoot a bow and arrow, but it is hard to do Kyudo. In TaiJi (Tai Chi) it is, doing the outer movement, the “Form”, without harmony of mind and spirit, the “form” is empty. 

Back to the frustration part. My Shakuhachi Sensei has a lecture with me after each class on the history and “spirit” of Shakuhachi. This latest lecture had this element in it on the difficulty of producing a steady, solid tone on the Shakuhachi. It said many times it can be so discouraging and frustrating one want to throw the instrument at something out of sheer desperation. Yet, he says it is precisely these moments of frustration and disappointment where we make our most progress. Really profound, deep music is born out of these experiences of frustration, sufferings, and disappointment ( failing a Shinsa) and well as from the joy of living and experience of happiness ( passing). A Kung Fu uncle said, on pushing hands “sometime when we lose we win”.
Another interesting item was brought to my attention last night about sitting. I was sitting in the chair for my lesson and Sensei stopped me from my playing and said, your posture is wrong. You should sit like you are ready to stand. In the way of the Sword you are seated as though you need to stand and defend or attack at any moment. The same attitude is with the Shakuhachi, it is the sword. He then showed me the motion of standing whilst playing and standing whilst defending with the sword. Same footing, body position, attitude. Back straight, flowing up, maintaining Douzukuri. This brought to mind Kiza in Kyudo, and the Chan thought of inter-connection.


5 thoughts on “Cross training, different medium, same lesson

  1. Whenever I’ve tried to talk to other members of arts here about cross training it’s always the same, a kind of disregarding “sou ka…”. Not that everyone feels like this, just most of the people I’ve encountered. People talk in kyudo about “opening”. When we shoot we should “open”. I think this is specifically referring to our shoulders and release, but isn’t it also about the openness of our form? Openness of our acceptance of other arts? Other people? Is kyudo the ultimate hippy art? Shakuhachi sounds super cool. Great post.

    • Good point, “open” should be not limited to a physical action. The Kyuhon speaks of taking control of one’s “heart”. If one has control of it, then one should be able to open it, not only heart but the mind. In my Chan practice we seek to open our chakras, open our heart, open our mind, to understand, to feel that all things, people, life are connected. My Kung Fu Sensei would often say there is something to learn from everything, and everyone. _/|\_

    • BTW: i recommend this book highly:
      Blowing Zen – finding an Authentic Life, by Ray Brooks.
      A story about a British Guy who comes to Japan, and finds the Shakuhachi. He studies and has a number of interesting encounters with unexpected people and the customs of Japan. Excellent reading!

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