弓道 Kyudo world

Kyudo world –
The path less traveled.

Less traveled by the masses of Martial Art people, still, here at ZenWorld it is traveled often. I am still keeping up my practice, just not writing about it so much. Well, not much of that anyways, I do it in clumps, then I am back at life instead of writing about it. Also right now is just practice practice practice. So yeah, Kyudo, is still the big challenge on my plate. I have been working on “form” things, hitting wise I am not seeing any change. Yet, feeling, really really close…some days. Other days not so much. Yeah, nothing really has changed, perhaps just my attitude, the formless part of Kyudo. Kyudo world is like that. 
I have been attending regularly the Kimono class, on Tues. At first I was sort of nervous about the whole thing. Now I rather like it. It is good to be learning and training on something other than the frustrations of hitting, or not hitting in my case. In the Kimono class we work more on Tai Hai and Sharei. This is good for the finer points of my Tai Hai appearance in Shinsa. Because, yeah, it is not just about hitting. Even more so now I am doing Rissha. I was sort of concerned about being a hinderance to the class doing Rissha, I am finding though that the others like having to work with me doing it. It gives them a chance to learn and practice with another aspect to their training. The details and timing are a little tricky with Rissha, but not too bad. I thought it was mostly a matter of moving together, but no more complex, when to start certain moves, doing what depends being on what location, number of steps, the weekly practice is a good thing. 
It was a bit of a shock when I found everyone watching was expect to critique those who are shooting. I am just a baby here, How can an ant, see the view of a lion. I did my best on whatever smacked me in the face as wrong/off, and some serious flashback thoughts when I first understood what I was suppose to do. I was caught off guard when asked for my opinion. Ehhhh, Boku-wa !! Ehhhh.

My shooting issue is still dropping my left arm. I was told to imagine a line extending from the arrow to the front and back. That did help some, now I need to work that in with the list of thing to do n Kai. Of course this would go at the end of the sequence near the end of the expanding balloon of Nobei part.
I keep getting asked about my next Shinsa, most seemed surprised I am waiting until Autumn. I may even wait until the Winter Shinsa. We’ll see. As I tell the askees, “no need for me to rush”.
Do you know what they call a Doctor who passed at the bottom of his class?

The Beat…

Sakai Blues fest
I was sitting here thinking, what I have done that needs to be updated in this tale of wind in the land rising sun. I sort of lost track, thinking it was not much. But nay! This lacks full truth as I have been quite busy with this and, that mode of music. First there was the Sakai Blues festival. Sakai is a small city between here and downtown Osaka. I rarely go there but go past it via train somewhat often. This yearly event in the Blues World here is a big deal. LZ had off that day and decided to come along for something different.
We arrived at the show area and try to figure out where we needs to go. We head for the main stage area to get some directions. The event was spread out over a large block area, under different venues. The “Names” where on the main stage. We in some out of the way spot indoors. I am thinking like a mall corner, or entrance some thing like that. It was however a little downstairs bar.
Very compact, we found sitting spots for the group, which included, the rarely comes out drummer, LZ, the Doc and his girl friend, the new piano player, and the Doc’s ninety yr old mother. Oh wait I miss something. We had to find these seats outside, there were a few stools, which were given to us or something. The bar-room was so small, with a band, and 15 people it was packed! Including standing room. 
So groups came and groups went each with their followers. Shock! we had a few, two be be exact that did not come with us. Perhaps they knew others all well. Anyway our turn finally came, the placed was packed, we got rushed. It always sucks when one has to do that. It is better to play one less song rather than rush to get started. Well it took me longer to setup, and get power to stuff, the Doc starts anyway. I am finally adjusted by the staff and setup, and join in the way-to-loud frey. 😦 
This was not going well. Still the band played on. We got through the set. After the last song the Doc says, oh, I forgot to let you sing. I waved it off, I really did not care and had no attachment to the thought, nor how we sounded. We packed up and moved out.

The Doc’s 90 yr old treated the group and followers to lunch. She is a very healthy, mentally sharp old lady. She looks late 70’s not 90! Anyway that was a nice gesture.

Sakai blues lunch


After lunch we all split up and headed home.

Overheat Blues Jam host

The Doc tells me, we have been given a spot as “host” for a Blues music jam at Overheat. I say ok l can attend. I am thinking, ok we are host, so i figure we get in free an perhaps, maybe a cut of the door. This I am thinking since we play for 3 hours…. More on this later.
Unlike last time I knew what to expect, so I took my spot on stage and made ready. I was the first one there. The Doc rushes in later and jumps right on. There is some guy who I could tell was iching to play with us. He gave me his card, he was a vocalist and harp player. It took him a while to register I did the same. He seemed a bit surprised when it clicked from seeing all the harmonicas in the case right in front of me. I made my usual mental note of not playing much when there is another harp player sitting in. I tend let the visitor have some space is my feeling of non-competition. He was very gracious about giving me a turn at the leads. Nice guy, much better “front man” then the Doc. He had a couple of others with him who joined us also along with some later drop ins. 
It was a fairly long evening, but it was kind of fun, for a change. With the other guy calling up songs that he knew I got to play some different tunes, arrangements over the Doc’ s favorites. That was fun.
So after it was over, there was no talk of money or anything. There was a mention of did I have train fare? I said yeah I am good with that, and nothing else was said. Hmmmm, I thought, but did not attach to the thought. 
The other day, I am asked if I am free on the first Weds of every month, the owner wanted to give us that spot as hosts for a blues jam. Hm mm ok, I say. There is something said by the drummer about hosting. I speak on that about. Just what does this hosting mean? The host gets in free and everyone else pays, The host gets paid something? The Doc say, yes mostly, that is what generally happens but for us in this case we still have to pay the entrance fee and do not get paid! ehhh I say! WTF?. There is some comment about using the club’s equipment. I am all lit up now. I say I refuse to do it. I will not whore myself out for three hours to make money for some club owner and on top of that pay to have this insult! If you do not have respect for your talents, skills, time and effort, no one else will! This is not some 30/45 min showcasing, or donation thing. This guy is making money off of my 4 hours of work and changing me to make money for him. I am not happy! Oh hells no I will not comply!!!
After some time to chill out, I listened to the plea of doing the hosting. My expenses would be covered. I caved on the refusal to do it stance, however only for this time, since I had said I would earlier, and it has already been advertised, I would be there. Being clear, I say, I am only doing it this time, I am not doing this hosting scam again without getting paid!  

Ozaki Jazz Society

The monthly Jazz group gathering, this time I invited my Kyudo sempai. I figured it would be good practice for them in front of the group also, there was good food and entertainment. The people are relaxed and everyone will enjoy the shakuhachi played under Jazz conditions. 
Again LZ came out for the mission, her first time here. The managers were delight to meet her finally. She was surprised at the high level of the playing talent! I said, mostly tonight, but there are all levels here. My sempais were very nervous finally it was our turn. It took me the longest to get ready, I was trying to get everyone and things on the same page. I did not get the outside join-in from the house faces I wanted, but we made do. The first song was “My Way”, I told the sempai, breathe and focus, like doing Kyudo. We started, it mostly well. My concern was the the key pitch was a bit high for me these days, without being warmed up …a lot. Sure enough I could hear my voice cracking on some parts in the high range. Oh well. Not my best performance, but oh, well. I tried, I learned, re-learned, remembered a lesson…
Next up “Take Five” a mid tempo Jazz piece. Both sempai were really concerned about this piece. My hard part was done, not great but done. Now just playing. We started The song, I could not hear well what was going on clearly. We had a club member join in on guitar. We did this well, other than some volume, as in too soft for the classical guitar, and shakuhachi, it should have had a mic adjustment, and drummer should have used brushes , not sticks, and a bit rushed in places, type of let down. Turns out there is a vid off that song I got from one of the members.

The night went on, we ate, drank a little. I got called up to sit in on a couple of songs bass and harmonica, and volunteered singing on another. After a while I was asked to do another song. I agreed to a last one. I had something new to try on an older song. Fairly simple, easy groove, simple change, simple arrangement. I had none of my regular sit-in players tonight, not as planned but rolled with it. I also asked the upright Bass player to join in. I wanted to try two basses on this tune. Things did not start well. The drummer could not find the beat. The one he chose finally was sort of lame. The Bass player could not find a groove with the organ player who was also sort of lost on finding a groove. Somewhere, someone was hitting a wrong note/cord, something, loudly it was throwing me way off. I thought it was me, or?? Anyway, it did not go well in my eyes/ears.
I rolled on, under the said conditions tried the make the best of it. Then came the ending and it completely fell apart. Large sigh and oh well. I learned something…these players, have good technical skills, but no groove, sense. Jimi Hendrix once said ” anyone can play the blues, but not everyone can “feel” the blues.” Well it is ok, now I know better what kind of songs to pick t play with them, and it is a good venue for me to practice a different type of vocals.
We pack it in the the night shortly afterwards. Everyone had a good time seemed like. LZ says on the ride home… You must feel like a real outsider there. Not really your style, ne. The kaicho said you have your own world with your music. I said yeah, not really my spot. I can do stuff, but I am making it blend rather than having it naturally fit. LZ says, your style is more funky, groove kind. These players here are mostly technical. The Blues with the Doc, is not really it either. Yeah, I said. I am still a seeker. I have the idea just not the players. I do like the folks at Snafkin who I am suppose to do the concert with, like their playing, we do have groove.
Snafkin…the birth of the Kaze Band
I received a note from the owners of Snafkin. I am scheduled to do a concert for something they are putting on. They wanted to know what songs I wanted to do. It had been stated earlier that I could have the keyboard player and Bassist from Iyo-san’s band play with me, if I wanted. I said cool! Also a drummer was available, I had not met him, but I heard he was good. Also I hit up my friend who plays Sansen ( Okinawa Shamisen) to join. She had never done anything like this so was kind of nervous, besides being surprised I asked her to join.
It was arranged to meet at Snafkin this past Sat, since Iyo-san band was playing I could get with them and my Friend Miyaki-san for a rehearsal.
I showed up close to when I figured they would have a break or be finished their set. We talked a bit to get some direction. Miyaki-san the Sansen player just wanted to record what we were doing and practice some at home before she went public. Ok, not what I wanted cause I wanted to hear the sound, other than in my head, with her playing. However, I just flowed with it and the bass player and keyboardist and I went through the songs. The first was a little shaky starting, but we got the groove and it went well. The second song, went much better from the beginning as they were already familiar with it basically. It turned out way way better than the other night with the Jazz group I recorded both songs and put together a sample here…

This was an unofficial rehearsal, the real deal comes June 4. I am looking forward to see how this sounds with the full group. I may play Shakuhachi a little on the second song, I have an arrangement in mind. I have to see how my practice goes over the next couple of weeks, playing along with the recording. I am looking forward to this project.
LZ heard the recording of the band as it stood. She said much better! She said it sound like a “group” everyone listening to what everyone is playing and trying to match, instead of everyone just out for themselves. I was surprised at her insight. She hit it right on! I once told my kung fu brother who asked about playing with others. I said jamming, playing with other people is a lot like doing “Push Hands” in Tai Chi. You have to listen, then blend.
Bamboo n String trio
This is my Shakuhachi Sensei’s group. I have been told we have another concert booking late in June. I do not know what it is for, no matter I guess. I was also informed there was no money involved. That also is no big deal. I am not all about money as perhaps the Doc from the blues band is thinking. I am not, unless it is playing for more than 1 hour for someone else that is not a charity to make money. Anyway the Trio is not really exciting, but it is good to play other music and get out in public.
While writing this I see I did not cover the concert we just finished a week so so ago. We played at a local cultural center, I guess it is. There were about 30 or so people who attended. Sensei is a good MC, he made a few jokes, gave some background on the Shakuhachi, etc. We did a small variety of songs, including some sing alongs with the attendees.

The one part I did not like so much is him wanting me to stand and sing “My Way”. That really put me on the front line, being sort of shy I did not care for that. However as always I rolled with it. I was glad when that part was over and I could just stay in the background..sort of.


After it was over I got to meet one of Sensei’s other Shakuhachi students. I was surprised he spoke some English. He seemed like nice guy, my Sempai 🙂

Please feel free to leave some feedback on the videos. It is hard to get constructive feedback. I asked a couple of people in the past and no one want to say anything bad a guess. One grows by facing faults not hiding from them. As in Sitting Chan/Zen, one faces your true self when meditating, the good , the bad and the ugly. This is how one improves, grows, facing demons.

The TV Guy

I belong to a model agency. It was LZ’s idea to help me find any work when we first arrived. In Japan. I have gotten a couple of calls, then I was otherwise busy and could not change. This time I get a notice to do a TV show fill in spot. I am to be part of a Sri-Lankan group of islanders that the Japanese Army is befriended and treats them special, they in turn are supportive to the Japanese and are willing to join them to fight the British. Yeah, I know what you are thinking on both count. No need to go there.
So yeah, I have arrangements made on where meetup with the camera team and other cast members for the day. Ok, my first time meeting others and doing a thing for TV. I am curious…
I am picked up at the station in a van. Part of the camera team and four other “gaijin” cast members. One guys speaks right away, mr friendly seems like a nice guy. The other three say nothing maybe one nodded, sort of. They all seemed out of it, still sleepy. Except mr friendly. He introduces himself and starts talking. He is from Africa, Zimbabwe, a White African from Zimbabwe,
. Hmmm, I thought and just rolled with it. He is married to a Japanese, has kids, blah blah…
The van stops at a port town, as we are headed via Boat to a little island to do the filming. Hmmmm cool I am thinking. It was a typical ferry-boat ride. Pretty smooth not really too long, not was it that much of an interesting view. Mr friendly stood next to me on the ride over. He told me about his childhood, his father, where he had travelled, his and his wife’s DNA findings, blah blah blah…
We landed on the small island, just off of Wakayama mainland. It was some kind of park, not just some island, as I had thought. Once we got organized after departing the boat we headed to the shooting site. There we are, the crew, Japanese, actors, Japanese, the fill bodies, 3 Black Americans, 1 Pakistani guy (I think), 1 White African, playing Sri-Lankans and a British Army officer.
This turned out to be on the top or near the top of the island mountain. We started to walk it was a well-defined road, trail, path to the shooting spot. Some kind of old partly underground building. No idea what it is. People kept coming throughout the shoot to sight see. So it must be something historic, not crowds of people just a few here and there. Those who came over on the ferry. The climb was not a big deal , but it was much more than just a stroll. The girl from the film crew was almost sick from the climb. She had a cold to start with so breathing was difficult. I could see her struggle on the way up. I could see. Her the whole way up which was about a 20 min hike all uphill. I could see her just behind mr friendly and myself. He was filling me in on more details of his life and his outlook on things,,blah blah blah…
We did a few scenes there at this place on top of the island, then it started raining. They did a few more shots under some thick trees, before packed it up and heading back down to the beach. At the beach it was really raining now. We again went under some thick trees for some settler before covering the camera and we went on the beach to shoot some. 
It was starting to get cold now, with the winds, and rain. I was ready for this to be over, they kept going …
I was pleased I had the forethought to bring extra clothing, i started putting on layers. I was lucky being. Small guy I was not asked to go bare topped like a couple of the guys. They Were given wrap skirts and asked to go topless for the next couple of beach scenes. They were the fishing locals, i was in few shots also sometimes , but I was not a muscle dude. I got to stay dressed and warmer than the Hulks.
Finally the ferry returns and we group up and head back to the mainland. Kind of funny calling an Island the Mainland. Once back it poured rain.
The Hulks had to do a couple of beach scenes were they were catching octopus. They were being filmed being shown how to do it by the friendly helpful Japanese. This show os part of some regular TV program. Mr friendly , one other guy, named Raja from Pakistan I think it is. Hmm well anyway, we stayed in the van. We slept, it rained, and got paid. Ahhh some moments in life are better than others, which even trying to make them be. I am always grateful for those.
So, next up after lunch, the company paid. We ate at a ramen place. 😦 . I sat with the Japanese actor by chance. They went through a lot of effort to find me something a vegetarian could eat. It was a failure. I settled to help them feel at ease. I got some sort of ramen with veggies and ramen. The soup was of course meat base. To give them face, I ate a small bite of noodles, some cabbage and sliced carrot. I took in as little soup as possible and mostly ate the rice ball and bowl of rice. It was the worst overall meal, I had in a long time in Japan. I really did not see what the thrill was with Ramen and I love noodles. Sigh, so I think I handled it ok. I did not want to flat out say, no I will not eat that. I had been giving thought to the acceptance or refusal of gifts, offerings from the heart, from a Chan view. This seemed like a good balance. 
After lunch we went to a place in downtown Osaka, and old office building that was sort of Art deco-ish. It was like being in Oakland rather than Osaka. We did a couple of scenes there. Well some of the cast did. The other sleepers from the van and myself still hung out, oh, wait ! No the Pakistani, sort of guy did a few shots and lines. Mr friendly and I sat. 
Once the scenes there were done, it was now over to main TV studio. We went into a modern build ing, lots of people and security. Not on the scale of NBC in hollywood, but still a good size place. We wait. Mr friendly connects with me again. The questions/conversation now comes around to me, what do I do in Japan? It is now 7:00 pm. In the evening. So I tell him his next waterfall of words deals with his adventures into the martial arts…blah blah blah
We finally get the call to go shoot. We enter a room with a great window view. Not really a TV studio shooting room. The place more like a conference room. We shoot a couple of scenes. Mr friendly, Raja, and myself are now dress in suits. We are someone in the government. I think I am president of Sri Lanka. It is just us, we are having pretty close up shots, not face closeup but like table, desk, podium, closeups. Finally it is over. It is about 8:00 pm. 
We say goodbye to each other. I ask about finding the train station. Mr friendly volunteer to show me the way. He is also going there. He is going to walk, it is not too far he says. Meanwhile Raja shows up before we take off. He want to go with us to get food, then go to the train. A big convo starts between, mr friendly and Raja. Raja figured out he knew Mr Friendly from another audition, they had been speaking lot early on the island. Some 20 min later, I am waiting to get to the train station, and thinking, OMG, when will this end! Finally we start walking, mr friendly is talking, asking questions that I did not really want to discuss with a stranger. At one point he asks, where do you have your kung fu training sessions? I respond such n such place. He says, oh, i would really like to come watch sometime! I smile, nod, and think to myself. Yeah that will never happen, but no word come forth. 30 min we are finally near the train station. However it is the wrong station. The correct station is just a couple of blocks, I am told. If I were him, says mr friendly, I would just walk, it is just right over here, pointing a map. Easier rather than hassle with changing trains. I looked at the signs all in Japanese, took a deep breath and we walk on to the next station. The next 10 min seemed like another 30. I am sure the street elongated with each step I suffered through, dragging my brain with having to listen to the unending chatter from mr friendly. Finally, reached a station from there I could get home. We said goodbyes, I thanked him for his help and added a little thankyou prayer to God for finally getting me away from the mouth.

Kyoto Kyudo…kampai

Kyoto Shinsa
Another Kyudo day, but this as a watcher not as a doer. It was a good day for travel and set off for Kyoto. It was the Golden week Kyudo Tai Kai and Shinsa time again. I went last year and it was pretty interesting. This year I had first planned on going to the Tai Kai and watching the Hanshi dan compete, and or going to watch my dojo mates compete. However that plan was changed in order to see the Shinsa for Nana Dan and Hanshidans also author of “Mu” and his crew were coming down from Hokkaido to watch and test. He had been beyond helpful to me when I first came to Japan with no equipment, by lending me a Yumi and some Ya. Anyway it was chance to meet him in person, so I arranged my plans to go on the same day .
After getting lost going to the venue I arrived later than I planned but it was ok. When I first came in I was spotted by a Sempai from my dojo and motioned to sit with him. It was a surprise to see him. We watched for a while then everyone took a lunch break. Him and I went down stairs to the venders area. I ended up buying a couple of small things. One of the venders was from the Shibata the bow maker. The grandson of my first Kyudo style and teacher of my bowmaker was there working. We chatted a bit and he invited me over to the shop when I was in the area. I could met his father and see the shop where they make the Yumi. I was told it was nearby and easy to get to. One day I will go by there…one day.
After a while I went back up stairs to the main area and things had started up. I watch, took pictures spoke with a couple people I knew. One of which was a sensei from the States, we were both surprised to see each other. One thing I found surprising was how badly some of the people shot. Perhaps their form was good , but they were off the target, some by a lot. A couple of people bounced their Ya off the floor a couple of times before getting to the mato. Many hit below the mato. A couple even hit the hanging cloth over the matos. I could see how off they were at their release, it was funky. I was also surprised at how many had the shakes, like that disease or something that they would get the shakes when holding the Ya. Some kind of muscle issue thing.
So I watched and learned, what it was like at the advanced Shinsa. I also got to see some do standing Risha and a couple in standing form in the three person Sharei, which the Kyoshi had to do as part of their testing. Now I know it can be done standing in a formal situation. It was a fairly long day, but I am glad I went, it was a good learning experience, not just a fun thing. I feel more motivated now. I do not feel so dishearten about my shooting at mt Yondan Shinsa at all now, after seeing many many of the advance level people miss and miss and miss. Of Course there were some good shooters, nut there were quite a number of bad ones, as far as hitting goes.


I treated myself to a small dinner at a local izakaya afterward. The name seemed fitting for the occasion and the menu looked good. I came across it on the way home after stopping at a couple of temples for a little sightseeing on my way back to the train station.

One of which I found something interesting in keeping with the spirit of the day.


It was a long day but worthwhile…

I got home sort of late. I had a TV shooting call for the morning, so I should have gotten back sooner…Oh well.

Back at it…

Back at it…

So back to the training path. With a different spirit, as I have said before. I went to the dojo last Sunday I was surprised to see Yamashita Sensei there, a pleasant surprise. He had been at the Nagoya event and before that it had been awhile since I got to train with him. He does not speak English, but still we communicate well. 
So after watching me shoot, he gave me some points to work on after I asked question. Part of my issue is dropping my left upon release. Others have given me tips on this as well. It still remains to be a “thing” for me to work on. In my head i understand, but my body does not cooperate. Putting power in my elbows to support my arm, not in my hands, or wrist. I still need to isolate the right muscles on my lats, and expand outward.
My question that was about my right tenouchi, however the answer extended over onto the arm dropping thing. As in Zen the is no duality and all is connected, so it is in Kyudo. Remember that old song about the thigh bones connected to the hips bones…yeah, sort of like that.
I was told I carry too much tense in my hands. My grip should be relaxed, both hands through uchiokoshi and Daisan. In Daisan there is, should be a little tension in my hand , but not a hard grip. Just enough with my forefingers, to stay together. The heel palm is squeezed together, same as the left tenouchi, the holding a bird’s egg thing. Both hands not just my left, but the right as well. No tension in my left, no tension in my right. Let the glove do most of the work. Adding a slight amount of tension going into Kai, but only slightly. The release should be equal with both thumb and finger on the right. The left fingers having no tension should close upon release not open as mine do. Forearms have no power. Power is only at the elbows, and lats. My vertical center line should be soft power, my horizontal line elbow to elbow has the power. The Yumi has the power, not my forearms and hands. As he explained it it made perfect sense, I got it! Understanding is one thing, doing is another. I am trying.
Today was another Kimono day practice. There was only four of us. Most other were already at the TaiKai in Kyoto watching or shooting today. I did a couple of rounds with the others, then we just shot on our own. I had a break through of sorts. I am pretty sure I sort out which mato to choose and the aim point. By which i mean the right eye vs left eye imaging thing. What seems to work best for me is to close the left just a little and focus on the right. Which makes sense since that is the eye next to the Ya. Doing that and also really focusing on relaxing my arm, and hands, expanding with my elbows made a difference in my shooting. On Sunday I only shot four arrows, spending most of my time on the Makiwara. Of those four I hit zero! 🙂 I did not really care.
Today I was up to 45.45% out of 22 shots. It has been a while since get that. Of course the test will be at least maintaining that and improving. Time and practice will tell.
I am off on Thursday, the day following this post to Kyoto, to watch the Nana Dan and Hanshidan Shinsa. From Yamashita Sensei talk to me about a soft core, but firm support, I will be watching with different eyes. The learning should never stop, the degree and intensity changes…yosh!