Crawling in the basement, creeping with the bull frogs

I am still crawling around in the sub-basement, however it is cool. I am discovering things, which will help me up the stairs. Another day of practice, I went in late Sat afternoon. Again it was somewhat crowded. Something is upcoming, besides the Shinsa next month for me, I recall something about a higher level Shinsa as well. I do know a Sempai is going for his Rokudan again. So it is not just us rug rats feeling the Shinsa pressure right now. Then in May there is the big Tai Kai in Kyoto. I plan on attending again to watch. I know at least two Sempais are going to shoot and no doubt a couple of my Sensei again. I want to see the big guns shoot this year. Last year I had to work. This year I will say just say no! Maybe depends on how our home money is looking.

So yeah for today’s practice, I did a shoot at the Makiwara, I was watched from the side by a high level sempai who I saw helping a few others. I shot, he just nodded his head in approval. Big sigh of relief I had. I was doing the correction Watase Sensei had told me about. The Kaicho was making ready to leave while I was making ready to shoot. He just gave me a few points to remember, then he left. I went on the floor for a couple of shots. I could see from my side view a couple of pairs of sempai/sensei eyes on me, whilst I did Reshi then shot. Hit one, missed one. Oh well, still the pre-shot was good. Good enough that I did not get a correction. There was a lot gong on with people leaving, soon everyone was gone except one Sempai who was working on his shooting and not doing well from his actions, comments to himself, body language. Ok, it is not just me and other rugrats who gets in the I suck basement. After awhile he also left. It is now early evening Sat. I was alone, whoohoo. I just shot, not well, but I did shoot. Shoot and analyze, experiment, test. After a while it dawned on me I was shooting and missing in a way I had before back in the states. Hitting around the target, my Sensei there told me, do not just shoot at the target, shoot at the middle of the target. Ahh yes, I remember now. Also something I heard someone say on the HBO show games of Thrones. There was an archer training one of the sisters. Telling her something on those lines. I tried it. As before back in the states, my hit rate increased. Ahh yeah I thought. My eyes are not as good as before but I can still, see the center, not as sharp but good enough with some mind focus.
That was a help, I still needed to pay attention to my right elbow, expanding my chest, my right tenouchi, my left tenouchi, pushing, adjust my aim because I was still aiming to low, but yeah. There was some improvement. Now if I can still hold those adjustments, refine them and they still hold up at the next practice, I maybe be on the stairway out of this pit, and have a 50/50 chance of making the hits I need for the Shinsa. There are still things involved, however until I make the hits, none of the other stuff matters. Still, I have major doubts about passing this round, but…I will do my best, that is all I can do when that time comes. Until then, I will practice to improve my best effort.
I have been posting lot of these tales of woe as of late. More for myself than anything. Notes to self, memories of my suffering to look back on, all that. There is about two weeks of training left, I may not post any more on this my trek through the swamp, until afterward. Maybe. I do not know which is worse, tales of woe, or tales of confidence, to be let down. Well, whatever, as I said, all I can do at the time is my best, and train now to do that then…yosh!
This will be over soon, one way or another. Then I can breath and do some other things that need some real practice, Shakuhachi: I am feeling more of a Draw for my Zen/Chan training from the Shakuhachi side these days. I want to pursue that more. See what that is about. My Kung Fu: technically my Chinese arts, because Kyudo is also Kung Fu. I still want to get a school started here but no time to devote to it right now. There is also my garden, spring planting, weeding, Piano!
Although it maybe not be that much of a break after the Shinsa because the June Shinsa will be coming up shortly if I do not make the grade this March. Right after this Shinsa I have a boat delivery to do, which will require a 24 hour trip, yuk yuk yuk! 😦 The Kyudo Music Ensemble, we have a show up coming, there is a big Tai Kai at Osaka Castle. I want to take a trip to Wakayama to visit the Kimosou temple there, other stuff to post about other than my Kyudo woes. There is more to life than Kyudo. I think my pre-Japan blog had more variety, More Chan stuff, more Kung Fu, that is for sure. Here I have no Kung Fu or Chan family, I do miss that about the Stateside life. On the other hand, Kyudo here is more fulfilling, frustrating, but more interesting and I am dong music again much more than Stateside. Life’s tradeoffs. Also life quality is much better here. Less of some things, more of others.
Well that’s it for the local news…mata ne!

Your Kyudo Sucks Manor

Sucks Manor has a sub-basement…

Another day at Kyudo. I went in earlier than usual. A few surprised faces greeted me. I had not been in that early in a while. I thought to practice Tai Hai with a group, however no seemed to be doing it and I was the only one with a Kimono. After greetings I went to the side changing area and went through my routine. stretching, some Zazen, then changing. Also I just watched the shooting . I heard one of my Sempai say something about how long I was taking to change or did I disappear. I was not in rush and wanted to observe the shooting. I remember Nogami Sensei once saying something about part of learning is to watch then practice. There is a name but I always forget it.  
After a while I came out. It was close to lunch time, many were making ready to leave for the day or for lunch. Fine with me I could have some space to practice, without interruptions on what I was doing wrong. I stalled for a while, whilst the masters chatted and such. Finally I went on the floor. As i step out to do a formal start, the lingering floor people made way for me and I was followed out by 5 Sensei who were going to watch. Oh, great I thought, I was hoping to avoid this. Oh, well, it is on! I went through Risha without incident. Mostly because I reviewed it off the floor and got a few adjustments before hand. Ok, so on the floor, only thing said was about how many steps to take, which I had been shown wrong before, but I was already on to that. Anyway, I hit one, missed one. Hmm oh well. There was a little discussion, but mostly quiet and everyone went to lunch. I continued shooting, not well, one hit out of four after the next hit and then miss set. I felt it was going to be another sucky day. I was still trying to make the corrections I got the other day. I had a semapi take a few pictures so I could tell where some problems were on my own. These turned out to be handy later, when another Sempai/sensei was telling me of some correction I needed.
My morning shoot continued to suck, to new levels of suckness. As it turns out the basement of my suckness has a sub-basement! My left tenouchi started falling apart. Good grief, so much for the Shinsa I thought. Oh well, thankfully for my goal of passing at Banpacku, my first dojo, the summer and fall Shinsa are there. So I still have a chance later of making my goal.

I continued to practice. The group returned from lunch, I practiced a bit then sat for a break and just watched. There was some discussion, then i heard my name. Ohh boy, what is up now, I thought. I got a going over, my right tenouchi was wrong, my draw angle was to shallow, not pushing enough with my left and over all too tense. I was trying to hard, yeah, thought that myself. Also, I was asked about the weight of my Yumi. I said 14. The head Sensei said, what came out to, the right hand does not hold/draw 14, not does the left, it is balanced out between the two. Ok, I got it, I was putting too much effort in the right hand. Also I was told my right thumb does not hold the string, it is relaxed, my middle finger holds the string pressure. Both myself and another Sensei said ehhhhh!? Yes, The head Sensei explained. He also dug out a book to show me, I am not sure if it was a Japanese Kyuhon or what, but it had good diagrams. I got what he was saying. The right hand tenouchi I was using from the Shibata school was correct with a modification. Also I was told, do not do the snapping finger turn the wrist thing, it throws my elbow off. Soou ka! Make a larger Hikiwaki, but not with my hand, with my elbow. Another thing, beside opening my chest more, was my right hand and forearm should not be straight as I was trying to do, there is a natural curve, that should be maintained from Dai-san. Let the elbow do the work and relax both of my hands more. Don’t do archery, do Kyudo!


I worked at it for a while. My planned three hour practice, turned into four. I wanted to have this info somewhat logged in the mind/body data base before leaving. Before everyone left , and I was alone. I was checked again by the Renmei head. 80% better he said. Yokatta, I thought, I thanked. Another Sensei came back in later from the gym. He checked, and also said better than before. Again I express my thanks, he left, I practiced.

 final shot
Slowly my hits rate improved. As it neared the four hour mark for my practice day. I hit four in a row, and called it a day. I figured better to leave the sub-basement of Suck Manor climbing up rather than Slipping into Darkness. Great song, but not a good place to be.
Yeah, once all of this stuff come together, I will be awesome, until then. I will be rooming at the Your Kyudo Sucks Manor.

…and now for something completely different

Tosa is an area on the southern part on one for the island somewhat about 5 hours bus ride from Osaka. A somewhat pleasant bus ride. This is where the Tosa dog comes from. A famous breed like the Akita and the Shiba. The Prefecture is Kouchi the town is Shikoku. It is famous now for the Geopark. Deep sea saltwater baths, and water. Water which people drink for health. taste weird to me. There is also a famous place Muruto cape the site of some famous monk’s enlightenment. There are some who make pilgrimages to there. I saw such a group while there.

LZ has a job, somewhat like a mystery shopper job. She write reviews on Hotels and resorts. With some effort, and planning on her part, she can make arrangements for us to not only visit expensive places, but come away with a little money, at the least it is a almost free trip. This is one of those trips.


Click >>>> Photoblog

Lord willing and the Creek don’t rise

I went to Kyudo today, I figured on a simple practice to refine my technique, and Rhisa wearing my kimono. Little did I know what I was getting into for the day. My two sempai from the shrine, who i play music with were there. I was given the song line up and break down on who is doing what for the show we are doing in April. How nice! How professional, so simple, I asked for that time and time again from the Blues Band Leader. Still 2.5 yrs later never had one. However that is another story, I am not going there today. How nice to see that someone who is not even a working professional understands the need, the convenience of this. How wonderful! I looked it over, he explained a couple of things and I said ok. That was done, I felt good about that.
So on to Kyudo
I went on the dojo floor at the same time as another sempai Sensei. He was startled a bit to see me start Risha, then he got it. I made my turn and started to remove my Kimono sleeve…ehhh he says. Not right! My turn to say ehhh? My angle is wrong he says, I correct that and continue, he still watches, with a not so pleased look. I continue through and shoot, miss of course, i hear some remarks. I shoot again now there is another Sensei/sempai watching. Again, I shoot and miss. I turn, there is a discussion, two Sensei, plus the Kaicho. I am thinking oh good grief, this is not good. I do not know what they are saying, but I am sure it is not good. So one starts telling me what I am doing wrong. We move off the floor I go to the Makiwara to get a better idea. It has something to do with the angle of my right arm, and also my hand angle. It takes a while because of the language, but slowly I get it. I was told this before but now it makes more sense along with the other part of the arm angle, and three Sensei explaining. I heard one say, this is where English comes in handy. However with some effort I slowly got it. The Back of my hand should be facing up, starting from in Dai-san through Kai. The angle of my forearm and Bicep should not be so narrow.
Next, I was watched with the Kimono. I was using the wrong angle when doing the thumb slide, and straightening my arm with my elbow up. I do not need to pull the kimono sleeve until I bend the arm in order to loosen the back side, then the front afterward. That took some effort to explain and again slowly I got it. Little by little I made the needed adjustments to the kimono removal. Small details, bend of the thumb, slight cupping of the hand on the hip bone, fingers pointing, angle of the slide. Sugoi details. All of this is something that outside of Japan one does not have to deal with for Yondan Shinsa. So yeah, it is more difficult to get Yondan in Japan than outside of it. In the states one does not deal with a kimono until after passing Yondan. I do not know about other western places, but in the States, no ! I recall, it was my original goal in the Renmei when in the States to get Yondan so I could wear my Father-in-Law’s kimono. ( which my Mother-in-Law has since lost, packed away somewhere) Here it is not a big deal to wear one, in fact it is a hassle for just everyday practice, even though it looks cool. In the Shibata Clan in the States, it is also not a big deal. You want to wear a Kimono, wear it! Beginner whatever? So in that aspect the Shibata clan is more Japanese in the States than the Renmei who try to be more Japanese, in some things. In my opinion, which as San-dan has very little value and it with $2.00 can buy you coffee, maybe coffee and a donut some places.
So the day of my planned two hour practice shooting time was spent, practicing my Kimono technique and Risha. Little by little people started leaving, it was kind of a busy day, there was a group of high schoolers there practicing today. At one point 8 mato were put out instead of the usual 6 because it got busy with the grownups and the kids. Anyway, it slowly cleared out. I paid for another hour of dojo time ( 1.50) and met Yamashita Sensei at the desk. He was coming in to practice. I finally got on the floor to shoot. Yamashita Sensei only had something to say about my tenochi. I was loosing my hand on release instead of tightening it after release. Great I thought that crap is back! Sigh. His only other comment was I was looking at my thumb too soon when doing the Kimono sleeve thing. tai hen, tai hen! So many little details. Stateside readers, you guys got it easy, in some ways. But….I’d rather train here!
So finally after spending the day being adjusted by 5 sensei, (who needs a seminar with this kind of personal care) I finally got some mato time in. Overall it was better than I thought. Not as good as the other good day, but way better than the worse day. There is still about 2.5 weeks to pull it all together. If I do not succeed, it will not be from lack of trying. If I do not, oh well, it only matters to me and there is the next Shinsa in June which I will be much more ready to overcome. If The Lord willing and the Creek don’t rise.

On such a winter’s day

On such a winter’s day…
I decided to do something different today for a change of scene, change of pace. I am at the Snafkin Cafe for lunch. Once upon a time I could go down to my boat to sit by, the water have a meal, chill’n out, kick’n back, lounging etc, whatever you want to call it. Now being boatless a change is needed to do that. This is my first time coming here during the day and just to hang out. It is pretty quiet and nice, chatted a bit with the owners. One day I want to sail down here for lunch then back to Tajiri. Once the weather warms up.
I was told I had people coming in to look for me to be playing. It was my Japanese Sensei, I had forgotten I told her I was going to be playing here earlier this month and that it had changed. She came in with some others, I guess from the class, but I was not here. My bad for not remembering. I hope they still enjoyed the visit. I have spoken via email with her since then and apologized. 
snafkin lunch
So here I am, chilling, seaside. There are only a few people here, everyone was quite surprised to see me. I got a nice small table by the window. 
And the band played on…

Yesterday we, the Blues Band played at The Overheat club again. The night before or perhaps early that morning I get an email from the Doc., he had given me a couple of songs he wanted to do for the show. I said ok. That morning he gives me two more, and says I want you to sing this song, done slow. This is the same song I got pissed off about last show, being told to do it at the last moment on stage. However that was only part of my irritation. So I told him thanks for saying something before getting on stage, however if he wants it done that way he needs to sing it. His response was he is not ready. Ok, so I had to break it down to him (street talk for explain it). I said when I am being paid to play/sing, I do it however the employer wants. When I am doing something for free, I have the right to do it, play/ sing however I want. otherwise, I am not told how to do a song. When the band is working as Matsuo Blues Band and I am getting paid, I do as I am told. If I am not getting paid, doing something for free, with no benefit to me, then I do not have to do as told!
LZ thought I was being a bit mean. What if he tells you to leave then, what would you say? My reply was: BYE! So I had to break it down to her also. When band/ group is named after someone, the band members are backup for the “leader” it is all about him/her. The members are employees and have no say, because they are employees on a job. When a group is name for example The Sennan International Blues Band, then everyone is equal, No one is “told” what to do. It maybe suggested, discussed, but no one is ordered what to sing or play. Asking, requesting is ok, but I can also say no! There maybe a leader, but there is no boss, when there is a boss, the other members get paid and do as told. This group is call The Matsuo Blues band, it is about him, not the group. How many times have I heard him say to someone, that is my Bass player! If I am not getting paid, I am not an employee, who is told what to do. There is an etiquette line which has been cross. He may not be aware of never having been a professional working musician, mostly been solo and this is all just fun for him and maybe the Japanese youngsters he has played with before never said anything.
She got it then.
So did the Doc. He wrote back, oh, thanks for reminding me, he says. I have not paid you guys lately. I was thinking of paying you blah blah for the show today. I said ok, thank you, shacho! What other songs do you want done? The drummer who is part of this email, jumps in late and says ok, guys, let’s chill out. Your point is taken, let discuss this calmly and just go play and have a good time. I thought I was being very calm. As far as I was concerned it was settled…I had said my piece got resolution, understanding and it was done…and the band played on.
the band

We had a new member join us, on piano that day. The Doc said he was a piano genius, he could play any song hearing it. He was to my ears just ok. I was not impressed. I could not hear well when playing at the time, but later I listened to a recording and the first two songs sounded muddy and there were some clashing or disharmonic cords. The final song was ok, for a first time playing for all of us song. I do not know if he will be a permanent member or just sitting in from time to time, like for the up-coming big Blues Festival we will be doing in April. It is nice to have the extra instrument, and he seems a nice guy, hopefully he will work on his Blues cords.

You can’t stop the music…

A few weeks ago, I went back to the Ozaki Jazz society gathering. It was a Valentine night session. I arrived just a little past the starting time. When i open the door at first i got a bunch of stares, from everyone, especially the new faces. Then I was surprised by applause from those who recognized me, others after a few quick whispers. That was quite shocking and somewhat embarrassing, at the same time a nice little ego boost. It was a weird experience. I entered and greeted everyone I knew including the owners who welcomed me. I took a seat at the bar in the corner to watch and listen. It was a slower night than last time so now as packed, still a nice crowd. As I hoped for I did not get called up right away and got a chance to relax and enjoy.

Ozaki Jazz
After several other I was asked to come up. I gave out the music I prepared and pulled up a few players to help out who were not already up on the stage. We did the first song easy, it had a nice groove and was enjoyable. I am more relaxed about being up there now and getting the groove I want. The next song, I had changed from what I said I was going to do and play piano. I liked the keyboard player that was there. We did a slow blues, I was surprised at the good response when I said what we were going to do and also a couple of other players joined in. Ended up with three guitars, keyboard, congas, and drum. The trumpet player sat this one out, and no sax player came forward. Ok on all accounts. The horn player tends to be somewhat flat and I am not a big fan of Sax unless they are good players. So it was well and good. After two songs I sat down so others could perform. Later I sang one song with another group of players and also did some harmonica with a couple of songs. It was a fun evening. In Japan everyone is given chocolate not just sweethearts as in America. There was candy on the tables and bar, and I was given extra to take home. I am not a big chocolate eater, so took it home for LZ.
I left but the music played on.

Losing can be winning

Losing can be winning.

I have said this before as told to me by a Kung Fu uncle. Of course how you take it matters and is the deciding factor if it is winning or not.

I went to the dojo today, Sat. My plan was to spend most of the day there in practice and meditation. When I arrived it was still crowded, it was early afternoon. I was not feeling especially sociable really wanting to work. I spoke to everyone, a bit more to certain sempais and went over to the changing area. There I sat, stretched, a bit of meditation, and changed. Slowly I made my way on to the dojo floor for my first shots. As I was about to shoot, I saw someone heading to the mato area to retrieve ya. I gave a moment pause, should I wait or shoot. I choose to shoot , but had already lost my focus so missed big time, big TIME! Sigh. Oh well. The next shot after the retrieval break was a hit. However I was not all there, the next several shots I missed, it was about one hit out of each four. 
I took a break, chilled, or rather warmed, because it was cold today. Cold and Rainy, I stood and sat by the heater. Watching listening, eating chocolate and cookies left out by someone. Then shot more. The Kaicho gave me a correction. I hit, then missed, then hit two in a row. It was getting late in the afternoon. I had been at it for about 1.5 hours. People started leaving, I sat near the heater and just sat. Again watching , listening, observing. One senior Rokudan asked how it was going, said it sucked, I need more practice. He laughed and looked at my score and said oh this good here. I said yeah, those two only, the rest suck, so more training is needed. He gave me a cookie. 🙂
More people left, I worked on my Risha(?), soon I was alone. I went back to what I wanted to do when. First arrived, start from the entrance on the floor and do it like it was the real thing. Steps, bow, turns, steps, breath, knock, cover the knock, raise high, expand the chest, the lats, push, details, release…Bam, hit, step back, wait, step forward, focus, details, daisan, large pull, expand, push, bam, hit. Again, hit…again hit…again hit. Next a miss, then a hit, next a miss, then again hit. Ok, I am capable, and I understand what I do wrong when I miss, so there is progress. Now, I need consistency. I think that is the biggest frustration is not knowing what you are doing wrong. Without that you can not correct. One is just doing the lucky shotgun effect. 
One of the things with Kyudo, the Japanese style of teaching and the language barrier, is one does not know when you are improving, other than by hitting the mato, taking exams and doing TaiHai. You do not hear, you are improving, looking better, this is good but this part needs some work. You can not judge your progress by how you learned in a form, because there are only eight steps. You can not judge by sparing, applying a technique on a partner, because it is just you and the mato. You hit or you hit not!
I still do not get the nobiai thing, uniting the expanding point part, thereby causing the release. When I hit, before that in Kai, I am going through a mental check list of what. Have been told, release here, have this cross, elbow down, expand these muscles, relax here, push there, cross this, dot this i, snap finger to release do not just open fingers…maybe that is why I have no consistency. I have not gotten the spiritual release thing. I think it is more I am not in balance, alignment somewhere, however what do I know, almost nothing. I am just a toddler.
Anyway I am feeling better today, now if I can just refine what I have, without a new correctional change. That is the thing that throws me off, the correction is for the big picture, I understand. The climb up the mountain, I am still trying to make it to the foothills from out of the swamp, crawling. I understanding the reasoning. Just as I understood the reasoning, when learning Karate I was taught to punch one way as a low rank, then after getting a Black belt I was told to punch another.
There is a Chinese saying about tasting bitter before one can taste sweet. That is in the same flow as losing can be winning. If I did not have such a bad shooting day the other day, perhaps I would not have been motivated enough to understand the flaws causing that lousy day of shooting.
Which brought to mind another question is it better to go into this shinsa or any thing confidant you will do well, or uncertain, but determined to do your best? I think a combination of both, but where is the balance point?
Well anyway I am just rambling to myself here writing this, just sorting out my thoughts, clearing stuff up, organizing for the next training session. Everyone has to take their own steps to walk the path. This is just a review of what and how I am dealing with my self-made mental games. If you have been through this, you may think it is amusing, having been there, if not been there, but are there ( here) it maybe sort of sort of comforting to know you are not alone dealing with the madness on the lesser walked path. If you are just reading about my trails and tribulation, enjoy the laugh. I you are I in the future looking back, seems silly now right?!

“The path is the goal”

Yuk- The worst…

A week or so ago, I thought I had a bad day of shooting, the other day was the worst! Seriously sucked. “mama said there be days like this” ( old skool song) It started out sucky, but did get better. The first hour, or so I got maybe two hits out of 10 or twelve. I was sinking into despair. Right from the start my shooting sucked. Then got worse after some corrections. Wider Ashibumi Watase Sensei told me, the head of the Kishiwada Renmei. Relax your right hand more the Kaicho told me. Maintain a Level ya from Daisan to Kai, Watashi sensei told me and expand your chest, your Yugeri sucks, do this, not that! Of course all those things were needed, but I was no longer hitting.
On a good note I did get to learn the standing form, Rhisa(?). My sempai, Sato- sensei suggested I record it. That was a great idea! Not really that complex, nor is the timing as I was told. Although I can see where someone not used to doing a timing blend could find it tricky. I did not think it was so bad. Anyway another something to practice. Still my hitting sucked again that was bumming me out. Even my luck charms from the Kyoto shrine we went to this past couple of days could over-come bad form. Even when I add it to the other collection, it is not enough good Ju Ju to overcome, poor performance. So I need to amp it up more!! Practice, not he JuJu.
I ended up staying four hours that day to practice. I did later in the evening start to see some improvement, but still it was a bad shooting day. Dolly Parson once said, “some days you’re the windshield, some days you are the bug” this day I was a smashed up mess on the windshield of Kyudo.
The real test in all of this is not passing , or not passing, but overcoming the mind games. Passing the Shinsa is a small thing, but the mind trips is the big challenge. If you think oh, this means nothing, then you will not put the needed effort in to it and set yourself up for a fail. If your attachment too much to it, you are major bummed when if you do not pass. Finding that balance and holding to that balance, doing your absolute best, but not being attached to the outcome is tricky. Pushing your self to excel, but not focus on the results other than the betterment of self, still is not that in itself a Prize? A measure of one’s success? It is fine to say and believe it is not about the prize, the rank, the glory, but one needs that standard of measurement to gauge, one’s progress…well useless you do not care. However if you do not care, then why bother with Kyudo, just get a toy bow and arrow and shoot in the air.
Does that make sense? Shibata group says as does the Renmei, it is not about hitting, but if you do not hit, then where is the standard to judge if you are doing it correct or improving. Otherwise, why bother with a target, just shoot in the air, and you do not need a Sensei other than to give you direction. Yet even then, direction to what, if there is not standard, no right or wrong way to shoot.
Sorry I am off on some ranting digression trip. ok, where was I…
So yeah, the battle, the training is on two levels, 1. to shoot well, 2. to not be attached to the end of how you shoot. It has been said, that if you do meditation to become enlightened, you are already stepping away from becoming enlighten. This kyudo thing, Shinsas, target is sort of the same thing. Even if one shoots for just pleasure, is not the pleasure the goal? If you shoot and train to get better, is not the betterment the goal?
One response I heard to why do you do Zazen? Because, I can. 
Why do you do Kyudo and shoot at a Mato? Because one (I) can.
If it was only that simple. Perhaps it is for some.

and lets not forget about the Kyuhon questions that need to be studied. On the train I listen, at work…This is sort of like becoming a full-time job…with no pay. Sigh. Reminds me of my Kung Fu Uncle always saying. Kung Fu training is not supposed to be fun. you want fun go to the gym. Yeah sort of like that.

“The path is the goal”.

Tic Tock

Cracking down…

I have been putting in the extra effort for the up coming shinsa. I have put the Kyuhon question / answers on a ipod. I can listen to them whilst traveling to practice and at work. It is interesting re-hearing, re-reading the Kyuhon, there are different things one learns at different points in ones training life, from the things one has read before.
I went to practice today, it was crowded, I was surprised. However it did not last long, everyone left except one sempai who is the deadshot. I remarked to Yamashita Sensei who I had not seen in a while about everyone leaving and was told there is some big Renmei meeting, everyone was off to. Ah soou.
That left me and my sempai there to practice. One other woman showed up a little later. I did not hit well today, awful in fact. Oh well. It was still a worthwhile practice, really no practice is a waste. I asked sempai about aiming. He explained about how different Yumi need different sightings, according to how the string is placed. Mine as it turns out is just where I had been figuring it to be. That was encouraging, I had figured that out. So now I need to refine it more. He also explained that I do not need to bring my right arm straight back, power it back, but it should open at a slight angle, as not to throw my left arm off upon release. So many little things that add up to a big thing. Little by little things are falling in place. I do not know if I will be ready by the March Shinsa, but as I said I keep at it, sooner or later it will be my time for the pay off. It would just really really please me to make Yondan at Nogami Sensei’s dojo. If the spirits of the departed really do see what is happenng here, I think it would please him greatly for me to succeed there. That would delight me and feel somewhat like a payback for his kindness to me.
Either way. I will not give up. I have been increasing my practice time to three hours a vist instead of two, plus added another day. Today, I was set to go another hour, but a another sempai came back to the dojo and told me the building was closing at 5:00. Once I figured out what was being said I went ehhhhhhhh!! It was already 5 to 5:00! I had to rush to put thing away and dress. Just as I was leaving a worker came up, I said sorry sorry, I did not know. I am a known face there now, he just smiled and said no problem. I am most likely the only Gaijin there at the city gym. My card comes in handy at times.
So anyway. Yeah, it was both a good day and a bad day of practice. Maybe a good day of practice , a bad day of shooting is a better phrasing.
Anyway more practice…yosh!

Changes of the Monkey

Ch ch ch changes…Year of the monkey

We, the blues band had an engagement again at the Overheat club. It is kind of silly to call it a band, since it is mostly the Doc and I, with whoever happens to sit in on drums, if someone does. I called it the “Matsuo Blues band minus one”, since then that is what the Doc has been calling it. Except he will add Matsuo Blues Band Minus One Plus One, depending on if someone is sitting in on drums. :-/

He thinks it is cute. I think it is lame, and sort of corny but that is just me, because I have an attitude. Japanese are big on kawaii (cute)

We had another showcase at the club as I said, this time I arrived as the act before us was sitting up. Perfect. I did not have to sit through all the others. There was a fair about of people there that night. It was billed as a charity something. Ok, so we get up and I am told we have 10 min. Ok, I did not pay that night so, whatever. We played with him starting, then he says your turn. Ok, I had given him a song I wanted to do before starting, written out, we have done it before a couple of times…poorly. So I figured a chart would help him remember. He did not want to do it, he did not feel comfortable he said . Ok, I said. Not big deal. Anyway I so I picked another song out of my head storage, a funky blues. We played it well with the stand n Drummer. I thought we were finished afterward. However we were asked to do an encore. I gave him the nod to pick a song. He picks the same song I just did, and tells me not to do it funky but to do the way he likes it, and tells and shows me how to sing it. I was out raged and embarrassed! However being on stage, I put on my Japanese smile, took a breath and did as told, not asked, but told.
I was ready to quit right after the show. However, it is not good to do emotional things out of anger. So I did not. When asked by him, if I had a good time? I did not go off, I said calmly, up until you embarrassed me. I did not mean to, he said, I thought the people would like it. I believed him as far that went, he does not have that kind of heart to be mean. Un-thoughtful, yes, mean no. I was still pissed though at the way it was done. However my rational voice was telling me, stay cool, just chill it maybe just a cultural misunderstanding or something. So I went home and ranted to LZ. Who thought I should quit, for several reasons looking at the whole big picture.
After a couple of days and a lot of thought, I calmed down, and decided I need to change my attitude. Not expect anything, just flow with it, it is his band and our playing goals are different. Also I will make other plans for myself. To me this is a dead-end band, and is only good for practice, and getting known.
I asked the owner of the club, Chicago Rock, where we no longer work at what he thought of the band, to get some feedback on the musical quality of the band. I sent him an email, I was never answered. LZ said he would not. It is not his personality. She was right, but I thought I would ask anyway. Nothing lost by doing so just for another opinion.
I did get a big shock the other day when I was told by the Doc that the band had been accepted to play at a local Blues street festival this spring. That was a big shock! Even to the Doc. He showed them a video of a song we did live at a hospital, him singing. One of the few times we sounded decent, at least to me. We even ended together 🙂
He was surprised, I was surprised, the drummer was surprised. The bands that I have seen listed there for other past years have all been pretty good. I do not know what this committee saw. Maybe being a “mixed” band had something to do with it. Japanese, American and East Indian.
The Doc mentioned there was another event at the Overheat this past Sunday, said I was busy, I went to Kyudo. It was more enjoyable. So he performed alone with only the stand-in Drummer. He loves to play, it is one of his good points.
Meanwhile I have been giving some thought to my own musical path. I have been toying with the idea of some fusion blues music. I contacted a couple of good players I know from the states, a drummer, Bass player, and Trumpet player. They all live in the same area, kind of far from me, but which is near a club that has a Jam night we have attended before. I told them I was putting together a small group for some experimental music sessions, where they interested. Now I need a Jazz Guitarist. All said yes! I am looking at around the end of the year. That will give me time to put together just what I want and improve my keyboard skills, and Shakuhachi and see about recruiting a Shamisen player. It should be different and fun.
On another “note” I had band practice today with what I call the Kishiwada Kyudo Kai Music Ensemble. 
We play a mix bag of songs, a lil Jazz, pop, standard, R&B, Enka. We had practice all afternoon at a place that has rooms to rent for Karaoke. It was fun, we had snacks, they give free soft drinks and coffee /tea. It was interesting to have even a couple of watchers from the dojo there as well. the Kaicho and another student. 
The Ensemble is made up of two Renshi, a Godan and lowly me the Baby San-Dan. It was fun. This is what serious people who want to sound good for the public do, practice in some form or another. We have a show coming up in April at one of my favorite spots, Snafkin. I was just there a couple of weeks ago and sat in with a trio. That was fun. I think I posted that. If not oh well.
This weekend coming up on Sunday I have a session with the Ozaki Jazz Society. It should be interesting. I will step outside my comfort zone, and sing some Jazz, play piano and only do just one Funky blues to get my groove on.
So anyway, yeah, the year of the Monkey is bringing some changes. Gong Xi Fa Cai!
Have a joyous and safe new year.

plans of mice and men…

“the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”

There is a sailing expression about not being able to control the wind, but one can adjust your sails. It is rare that things go just as planned and quite a surprise when they do. Life is change.
I have been stepping up my Kyudo “game” . Finally finally finally I am starting to see some improvement results. I started keeping track of my shoot score again and yeah, there is some improvement. One day I ended with a 65% hit rate. Whooohoo I was Jazzed ( pleased) that day, I felt like I had a good chance of hitting at the Shinsa if I could keep that up. I did not , but I was still making improved regular hits from over a couple of weeks ago. My sempai who helped me correct my elbow was a big influence on that.
I am still making corrections to my from. The thing is no one has been telling me about hitting, it is always is corrections to my form, dropping the shoulders, keeping the arrow level, relaxing my arms, pull with the elbows, expand the under arm ribs…
All those things are good, but if I had not figured out my targeting point on the Yumi, none of those form corrections would have mattered. So now I am fairly locked in on where I should be targeting from on the Yumi.
Shinsa time nears…
So I got all my paperwork together, doctors note, money however. The night before I went to turn everything in for processing, I had a uncomfortable feeling, something was not right. I had the paperwork checked, hotel was set, we had spoken with my local Renmei head but, my “Zen” sense was on full tilt. Something was amiss.
I took my paperwork into the dojo the next day and met with my head Sensei. He looked at my papers, he looked at a wall chart, there was some discussion among him and a couple of others, I gave Sensei a paper from the “net” in Japanese concerning the Nagoya event, I figured it may come in handy. More talk, pointing, finally I get what is happening. It is too late for me to register. Even though I am ahead of the deadline, am too late for the processing for the deadline. What I did not know was that after my Sensei gets the paperwork, he has to submit it to the local chapter, they have to process it, then send it to Tokyo. I took it in stride and rolled with it. Sensei told me to call my wife, but she was working I said, so she would call that evening. As it turns out. Sensei nor I knew that the local deadline for turning in the paperwork was the week before. 😦
disappointment, but, not the end of the world. I am still registered for my local Shinsa in March. My plan was to go to that first, then to Nagoya to the seminar then test again if i had not passed. I figured, with several days of intense training just before the shinsa, I would be able to correct my faults and make the grade, at so I hoped. Sigh, oh well.

So as a good sailor I adjusted my sail plan. I will increase my local practice and have my own week intensive just before the local Shinsa. With the private attention I receive from my local senseis and sempai and increase in practice time, I should up my game to passing level. So even if not now, there is June, and two other chances this year. It is not like I am in the states and only get a Shinsa once a year. So yeah, anyway it is not like I have deadline. With persistence it will happen…this year! Yosh!!

As for the people I wanted to see from the States, well there was some internal political issues with the NorCal Renmei so my main friend was not attending anyway and I had changed my attendance date to the B seminar instead of the C. And now…hmmmm. Kind of a big expense just to go visiting. Will have to consider things.

I went to Kyudo practice today. It was fairly crowded. I mostly just watched for the first 30 min to an hour. Watching everyone shoulders, draw and release. Nogami Sensei had told be it is important to watch others , then practice. So I did that. Slowly people started to leave. I stretched amd watched. After a while the crowd left and I made ready to practice. The Kaicho watched me a bit then gave me a correction. I needed to raise my arm higher in Ushiokoshi and maintain that height in Daisan, seems like it is all about being setup in Daisan. It did make it easier to adjust my shoulder before going to Kai. Also I should expand more sooner, than later. It made a bg change in my shooting… My hit rate went down big time. I needed to adjust my sighting, elbows, etc. toward the end I started getting better, but it was my worse hit rate day in a while. I was totally bummed (depressed) about my end score today. The plum Chuhai with dinner helped, but mostly made me sleepy. So I am going to bed and will post this later tomorrow. ja ne!