Arrow day


Arrow Day

 
Today is the one month anniversary of my ordering new Ya, a full set of 6. Not a big deal to many but for me a first. In the past I only purchase a set of 4 or/and a couple of times only two. Money issues. This time I worked A LoT to get some extra hours to cover the cost of a new set. Not the cheapest set, but, a custom set with sturdy feathers. I took a picture in I photoshoped to be clear what I wanted. I went in and ordered, I was told I did not have to pay until I came back to check the order. Hmm ok. Sort of hassle but, a small thing.
 
I wait…
 
Finally the call comes they are ready! Whoohoo cool. They are just arrows, but I had design chi invested. My wife was told I could pick them up or they could mail it free. After some thought and HEARiNG from the Minister of Finance about the transportation savings by having it mailed…I compled to the logic. The wife was to pay bank transfer, then they ship. The next day the YA arrived, with an invoice. We were shocked they just shipped first. I was happy happy. They looked cool, not as cool as I thought they would, something seemed off, but still good!
 

I spoke with the wifee about shipping my old Ya for re-feathering.

I looked at the Ya a couple of more times during the next few hours and then it hit me. There was something left off that would have made what I was seeing click, snap crackle and pop. I was not going to say anything, just told the wife. Again with some thought, I asked her to call. Telling her it maybe my fault, something lost in the translation, it was not big deal, maybe they missed something let’s see.

 
The next day she called, they were very nice, after tracking down the guy who helped me, yeah, it was my fault. I thought he was asking about something else I did not want. Oh well! They are still nice Ya, and no one really cares about the style except me. Which will not help me at all with passing the Shinsa, but …I will look good, pass or fail. You know, Shin Zen Bi , Hahahahaha

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I went to the dojo today with my new Ya to switch out for the old ones. I will have those repaired and use them for the everyday stuff. The new set, will be for official stuff, Shinsa, TaiKai, Rei Kai. I will not look like a pauper at least with ragged Ya. Hmmmmm where was I ??

Oh yea, the Dojo today had others with new Ya, mine was the cheapest of the lot, theirs were all Bamboo. One sempai said she liked the Bamboo because it felt good on her face. I still liked mine.

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Now the important stuff…

 
The Kaicho gave me a correction today, I was not starting into Kai from a level Daisan. I was tilted.
After that correction I hit four times in a row. That did not last, but still it was my. Best hit day in a while.
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I think I am narrowing it down to the major flaw(s) I need to correct to raise my over all hit rate. We’ll see. Spring shinsa and the seminar are still a few month off for me to work within. Time to step up the training a bit after this work set I commented myself to for next month…Yosh!
 
I have not seen the paperwork show up at the dojo yet for the Oceanic event. Still even with my hit rate increasing , I need to learn Rinsa, my knees are pretty shot for doing long period kneeling, beside getting up and down. Maybe those full lotus positions for meditation have taking a toll…or ??
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吹禅 Sui Zen : …luck

Shakuhachi Tales:

Sometimes ya get lucky

 
On another post I spoke of getting a Shakuhachi from the recycle store. He took me a while to decide to purchase it. I even checked with the I-ching, I did not want to waste my hard-earned cash. At first I was going to take pictures of it and ask Sensei his opinion and show him the makers mark. However after thinking about it as just a carry around practice flute, it was not a big deal if it was junk, if it served my purpose as I would buy a good one later. As I said it had a flaw but it did not seem a big deal so I brought it. I have been taking it with me to work and playing it sounds fine and Plays well, to me. It is mentally more comfortable to have my own and not be worried something happening to it. 
 
 
I had my lesson with Sensei last night, and took the flute along for him to check out and give an opinion. After my lesson I told sensei the story about just happening to come across this Shakuhachi in the recycle store sitting in a glass case. He said oh , interesting. And took a look at it. I showed him the piece of tape I put on it to give the sections a better fit. He asked paper tape? I said yes. He replied, good, anything else is too thick. He looked at the makers signature. he said I know of this maker, he makes good Shakuhachi. This is not a no name flute. He put the flute together and started to play. He played scales, runs, then played a couple of songs. Afterward he looks at me and says how much? Sou ka! I will tell you a secret, this flute although student level is better than the one your Sempai lent to you!
Me: ehhhhhhhh! Yokatta
Sensei: yokatta ne!
 
My day is made, turns out to be a great score! Sensei says when I am leaving, something that means God granted your heart desire.
 
On another note, (heheh)
I met via the internet several other Shakuhachi players. It started with reading a blog called “myoanshakuhachi.blogspot.jp ” . This person is a Zen priest who plays Shakuhachi, I contacted him as he had posted something about some master flute-maker and how to buy one of his Shakuhachi. This was before I found out about my current new one. So this person was kind and put me in touch with this maker via Facebook. I contacted him however that did not go as planed. I wanted to know about purchasing a flute, he seemed to think i was interested in lessons. I am not sure if his flute are for a certain style or just the language communication was not correct. Although he did write in English and my wife wrote in Japanese. Anyway, seems he gives lessons on Kumoso style playing and perhaps makes Shakuhachi for that, I am guessing. I have not heard back after i said i did not want lessons , I wanted a flute. Oh well, I have a flute now of my own for my next couple of learning years, before making serious purchase from Sensei’s connection/friend.
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Along with the introduction to this master I was also turned on to another friend of the Priest, this person a real life Kumosu monk in the Kyoto area. 
 
 
He I am told is a licensed Kumosu monk, meaning the government says it is ok for him to go out and beg. From some reading I found you need. License to beg here in Japan. I said this before, Japan loves licenses for stuff! Part of that control society thing. Which like most things is both Yin and Yang.
 
…I digress
 
So yeah, this guy is one of those Shakuhachi monks. I did not know they were still around, in real life. From what I hear it is not that hard to be an apprentice. Something I may look into later when my skill set increases. It would help with my training to be a street Musician, and wearing the basket would give me a “sense” of the unknown “ninja-ness”. 🙂
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So speaking with Sensei last night at the lesson, unrelated to the guy topic, he brings up he had a disciple who is in Wakayama and is a Kumoso and plays regularly with others at Kokokuji temple in Wakayama. If I was interested he would introduce me. Sensei knows of my Chan/Zen practice and interest. I said thank you,
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…but later, my skills are still too weak at this time.

Regional Tai Kai -Nov

Regional KyudoTai Kai – Nov 2015

 
This past weekend my Dojo held the regional Kyudo Tai Kai. The turnout was fairly large by my judgment. Larger than I was expecting. There were perhaps 6 dojos more or less from the area. I was assigned to do photos again. Which works out just fine. I can practice my photo shots. I think this time I did the best with the lighting and settings. I was pleased with the results. I will only be putting up a few here. 
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The Kaicho did the opening Sharei, he is smooth. I also like watching Yamashita Sensei doing it. Both are good shots, I think the Kaicho looks a bit more relaxed and Yamashita Sensei looks a bit more formal…to me. Subtle difference seems like.
 

 

 
 
I used my new Yumi when my group was called up. I was second in my group which is my favorite place, still even though I am used to the way of things. The Omae for my group is or was the Osaka Champion. It hit all his shots every time he was up, except one. I was not expecting to do well with the new bow, so whatever I hit was fine with me. I think I did almost as well as the sensei behind me. I hit once every time out of four, once I hit two of four. So I was pleased as I had no expectations.
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My former classmate from the States was there. He wanted to see my dojo and how things ran here in Japan. We stated at 9:30 am, he arrived at 11:00. I showed him a spot to watch from and after a while went back to check on him. He asked what time the Tai Kai was going to start. He was quite surprised to find we already had. He said, but everyone is so relaxed. There are no teachers yelling at the students or others! I simply said yeah, it is a different world here from where you come from.
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Later I introduced him to Yamashita Sensei. At that time I asked if the school my schoolmate wanted to join was there today. He checked on the list and said yes, 14 people from there. A few are up now. Yamashita Sensei also said he would introduce him to a sensei from there, and went and found one of the head sensei’s from that Dojo. He and my friend spoke awhile and made arrangement for him to come in to start the entry process. Again my former classmate was surprised how helpful everyone was. No sense of turf ego.
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It was a long day yet everyone had a good time. Addition to the prize trophy there were boxes of fruit, blankets, and other items given out as prizes. At the after event meeting, the members of my dojo split up the remaining selections of fruit so everyone got something beside the good feeling of a pleasant day of Kyudo practice.
 

吹禅 Sui Zen … The first Flute

吹禅
1st generation Shakuhachi

 

 
I purchased my 1st Shakuhachi, not really my first but the first since being really on the Shakuhachi path. I came across a student model in the local recycle store. It is really not that good of a piece. If I was buying it as my main flute, I would have passed on it. The tone is not bad. The problem is the section fit is not tight. To me it does not seem to affect the tone. I will ask my Sensei. However it does not really matter because it serves the purpose I want, which is why I purchased it. It is my travel practice Shakuhachi. Something that I will not cry over if something happens to it. I have been carrying around my Kyudo Sempai’s Shakuhachi to work and on trips, that way I can get in a little practice in free moments, like during lunch. However I am always paranoid something will happen to it. Now I can leave his at home to practice and use for class, and this inexpensive one I can carry around.
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I have been giving thought to purchasing a good Shakuhachi. As in just a “student level” from a master maker who is a friend of my Sensei. I was thinking the cost would be in the range of $600.00. I was shocked to find the cost range is starting at $1200.00!! Whoa! Pro models are in the $4,000 range. Dayammmm! Ok , I can see the pro model range, but a student model at $1200.00 och! 
 

Well I have time. I still need a lot of practice before my basic skill is good enough for that kind of investment. I am not even ready to do a student recital yet. Which is something that I will be asked to do later, i was told by Sensei the other day. Ehhhh! Well anyway the Shakuhachi Sempai lent me, has a note flaw. Some kind of flaw is what Sensei was telling me to expect from any lower price model. Which is why the cost is warranted on a well made flute. Which is the same with any instrument, as I would know being a musician. Yeah, I get it. Same as with Kyudo equipment or Kung Fu weapons. The cheap stuff does not hold up,

 

So yeah, Sensei tells me I do not have to rush to make a purchase, I can wait, I was thinking of next year, (wife approved) Sensei says i can wait longer if I want. Even when making the purchase from a master it is not a simple process. Sensei says he, my wife and I will go to the master’s shop. There he will show me a couple or so instruments to choose from. I can try them, if they are not to my liking, I can come back in another few months to check out some others from a new batch.

 
So I am thinking wow, even from a master maker there is that much difference in the tone, feel of the instrument?! Or perhaps it is the “soul” of the Shakuhachi, finding one that matches my spirit. The Shakuhachi is more than just an instrument, unlike buying a western flute, the Bamboo has it own spirit, and like when a sword maker makes a sword, it has it’s own spirit. Same as with a Taki Yumi. That is part of the Coolness of my new Yumi, Don is a Zen Priest, perhaps a layman priest, so I am sure he imparted some of that “spirit” into his making of my Yumi along with the “sense” of Japanese imparting spirit into one’s craft thing.
 
So, the making of a Shakuhachi, from a master would have the same spirit thing. As does playing certain pieces of music with the Shakuhachi. Sensei was telling me the other day that there is a song, he played for me after my lecture part of class, that he does not often play in his concerts. The music itself is not that hard, it is an old zen piece, however the state of mind must be good. He says he will sit and meditate, burning incense, basically center himself before playing this piece.
 
I have to reach the stage of playing any meaningful pieces, I am still learning, exercise snippets and child songs. I am looking forward to learning a real piece. Slowly I am making progress , Sensei says my breathing is improved as is my tone. I am now working on the second octave notes. Small steps on the climb of the mountain.

Small steps

Small steps…

 
I went to practice today, I did not let the rain stop me, after all it is just water. There were not a lot of people there but more than I expected. However by the time I was ready, many had put in there time and were leaving. I did not put on my full gear, just my gi top, the black one in fact, I was in a low key state of mind. I got a few comments, none of them were bad, just curious where I got it and if it was a Kyudo gi or Aikido or something.
 
I have been for the last couple of times been shooting with two yumi. I have the new Bamboo one there and the old, the Bamboo half breed. I can certainly tell the difference, weight and draw. However, i have noticed I can shoot better now with the halfie since I spent the time working on my form with the lighter glass bow. Also after shooting with it, when using “Aki Hime” everything falls more into place.
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Interesting today, my hit rate increased not by much, but it did. I have not been tracking it like before, but I can tell. It is still not good, but getting better. I did not put so much effort into finding the spot by looking for a spot on my yumi, but just by feeling, sensing the spot and being level. I really notice it when I paid attention to staying level coming out of Daisan into Kai and then focus on pushing , and using my under arm muscles to keep my arm from dropping. Yamashita Sensei was there today he pointed out a couple of things. One I was not lowering both of my shoulders together out of Daisan, my left was already down, in Daisan, and I was just dropping my right, this caused some un-balance. Also I was tending to lend into the shot and not stay level. Lastly I only needed light power in my left under arm. To much, like I was doing at time cause my release to jerk. The Kaicho told me to be aware of dividing my release equally left and right. Also I had too much tension when doing ushiokoshi, I needed to relax my arms more.
 
I can only judge if I am improving by what I am currently being corrected on or perhaps , I mean what I am not being corrected on.
 
Well anyway, I think I am making progress. I love my new bow, it is a pleasure to shoot with it. The Kaicho checked it over again today as did Yamashita Sensei, both gave their approval on it. I notice that people notice when I have a new bamboo yumi. Maybe because I was using that patched up Fiberglass yumi for a while. Now I have moved on up to the real deal.
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A big Tai Kai coming this Sunday. I have been asked to handle photos again…cool
 

A day in the life…Taji, Kyudo, Jazz

Some days it just all flows together, this was one of those days. It started with a Tai Chi class. My student brought along a friend. I held it at the local shrine, it was a perfect day with the weather. Birds were out singing, it was a great morning for a TaiJi class. The friend of my student was visiting from Korea where she works. Blond blues eyes. I said oh, I guess I can just speak English to you, she laughed and said please it is all I know except five words in Korean, and said them. One of the words was Praying Mantis. Said ehh, Praying Mantis?! She said yes some kids in a park taught me, there are a lot of them there. I said oh, like this and showed her my school shirt. She was excited and got her camera to take a picture.

 
Next up after some lunch I headed off to Kyudo practice. It was a kind of slow day there. Good for practice. I worked with my new Yumi, Aki Hime. The Kaicho noticed it and inspected it and afterward gave his approval. He was impressed it was made in America. A while later another senior sempai came it. He also noticed my new bow and looked it over. He gave me some pointers on some adjustments, string height and placement, massaging the lower end so the height of the string at the top is not too great, several helpful things. I have excellent help there at Kishiwada.
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After a while everyone left and I got to shoot alone. I always enjoy that. It was great to shoot with a Bamboo Yumi again, so smooth. I am still not hitting worth a crap, but that is another story. It will take a while to develop accuracy with a new bow and where to sight.
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Lastly, I had planned on going by the Snafkin Cafe. The woman who’s Sax playing I like was to be there with her band, I wanted to see them. However, I was close to not going, but I gathered my Chi/Ki and headed out. When I arrived sort of late in the show, the place was packed. As expected she is popular and very good. I am not a big fan of tenor sax but her sound is good! Once their set was over the place emptied pretty fast. The band stayed on playing just a bit. The club owner’s wife came over and talked with me. Told me about the band members and introduced me. She said I should join them for a song, I declined. We spoke more, a couple of the members also spoke with me, said the had heard of me, and wanted to play together also the Bass player wanted to play with me, so we’d be doing two basses. I gave in they hooked me up as I did not bring my Bass, only my harmonicas. 
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This turned into the high point of my day! OMG we sounded good, the hot sake I had to warmup when I got there helped me relax. We did a couple of songs together and sugoi we smoked! One song was a little rough getting started, but once we found the groove and everyone understood the changes…wow, too bad there was no recording of it!
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It made me really want to be with a good band. 
 
I left shortly after that as I had to catch my train, it was a great ending to a good day!

Close encounter of the Kyudo kind

 

I am walking to the train station on my way to Kyudo. I notice an older man walking a dog coming towards me. I take note do to the bouncy step of the dog that looks sort of old. The man notices I have a Yumi.  As I pass he speaks and says Kyudo? I say yes!

He then tells me what I thought was, he does Kyudo at the Shrine Dojo nearby, and he is a GoDan. I told him, I tried to join there but the owner said no. He smiled and nodded. I said I train at Kishiwada, however I am friends now with some of the people at the Shrine Kyudojo. 

He said something about his barber and a Gaijin. Later I figured out Later he was saying his barber told him there was a Gaijin in the neighbourhood. My neighbour is his barber, his wife often gives us fish and veggies from the hood. So this guy tells me he has a lot of Yumi at his house, would I like to see them? I was hesitant, but after a bit figured, OK why not. So I went with him to his house which was near by. As it turns out, not just near by, right next door to my Shakuhachi Sensei!!! I am thinking whoa, how weird is this!

It does not stop there in weirdness…

We go to the door,  I wait outside as he going in to warn the wife he has brought home a guest, a Gaijin who does Kyudo, and is there to look at Yumis. It takes a couple of minutes then he says please come in…

 

 

I enter and the wife comes into the room, looks at me and she says oh Fuu – San from Kishiwada!! I think, eh!? OK now I am shocked, she knows of me!! Not really surprising though since I am the only Gaijin in the area who does Kyudo, but it was not expecting it from her. As it turns out, she is the GoDan, not the husband. Anyway, as a good Kung Fu / Taiji / Zen player I roll with it.

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Amazingly light in weight…

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I am shown in and taken to the Kyudo/ living room. Wow!!! There are Yumi everywhere in the corners! Lots and lots! Old ones, several old ones from Shibata XX and XIX I am shown. Antiques ! 

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Not just Yumis, but Ya, lots and lots of old and new Bamboo Ya, in glass cases and out in the corners, I did not think of taking pix of the Yumi until afterward. But I did take photos of some of the Ya. To get and idea of how many Yumi, imagine one Yumi for every Ya in the pictures!! 

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There were not just Yumi and Ya, but cases, expensive handmade cases. I am amazed at the collection of things. Something is said about the grandfather of the Ikai shop owner giving them/ her things or something like that!

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In addition to the Kyudo items, I am shown the Japanese garden in the rear of the house, some special wood carving, shoji screens, and an ink painting. Old Japanese style stuff I am told. I did not think of taking pictures until near the end. I think I was told to return again sometime. I will make some arrangement via my neighbour to visit again, this time with my wife L.Z.  So with her, I will not miss any of what is said. It will be a good Kyudo blog post interview also, good for LZ’s new business to meet someone local who has a dog, as a contact possible client for her dog sitting business , and can pass the word.