TnT

 

This n that, that n this – Dec,

 
Wow, 2016 is almost over. Kind of scary if I think too much about it…”time waits for no one”. 
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I have not said much about music world these days, not much happening. I have not been with the Doc’s Blues “band”. He is really into the “OverHeat club” me not so much, not at all in fact to be honest. I have said why so I will not repeat. Another reason is the Doc does not want to practice, he just wants to get high and have fun, not a drop of concern about how we sound. lets just have a good time is his only thought. He has admitted he is does not have a professional attitude…sigh. He is a Doc, he has never paid musical dues. Oh well.
 
Anyway speaking of music The Jazz band had an end of the year session on Christmas night. I went by and did a couple of songs. It has been several months since I have played there. They are nice folks. Everyone that knew me seemed pleased I was there. I got applause just walking in the door from those who knew me. The people who did not, seemed taken aback, by the attention, to some gaijin showing up and getting a hand just walking in the door. Kind of funny seeing some of the expressions. I just did a couple of songs in the blues realm, since that is where I am comfortable with no rehearsal and unknown players.
 
 
It worked out mostly well. I did one song at the piano and one song on the bass. Both went mostly well. The one on the Bass , “merry Christmas baby” I thought was fitting for a Christmas night. The ending was bad, as was one part in the middle. Which I expected. These folks are good players, but they lack “feel” for just playing from the gut and following. However their technical skills are good. If I had everything written out they would follow well. I did not, I gave them a basic cord chart and just let them do their best. While I kept it simple.
 
 
Anyway it was fun, and everyone seemed to like it.
 
One nice thing about this venue, is they have food. We pay 1,000 yen, to use the club. With that we get one free drink, and a small buffet.
I am always told what is ok, for me to eat (non- meat).
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There was a surprise cake this time for the Christmas party. I went to the table to get a slice, but as I was there near, it was being chopped away. There was only two pieces left as I got up to plate. I gave my spot away, I did not want to take the last piece or get there as the last piece was given away. I sat back down. Surprise…The manager came over a few minutes later and gave me a slice from another cake they had stashed in the back. Way cool of him. He had before all this came over and gave me some type of sea food in a shell. He said, “but you eat seafood right’? I said …er…thanks but no!
It looked like a giant great snail!! I passed. I thought about what my Abbot had said about as a priest I am not suppose to refuse gifts. Hmm. Well sorry, I was not going there with that “thing”, it looked gross. If I was starving yeah, but since I was not…passed!
So that was my Christmas night.
 
Christmas day, at least the afternoon, I taught my Tai Chi student. Some practice time for me before-hand then class for him. 
 
 
Finally a student who seems serious. He is struggling and finding out it is not as easy as he thought. So far I am just having him do basic training. Stretching, Chi Gong, sitting meditation, stances, Tai Chi walk. He is not bad, but he is not good either. He wanted to do Shaolin Kung Fu. I suggest he train Tai Chi instead. At his age starting Shaolin will be difficult. He is in it for health, I steered him to TaiChi. Even there I do a fair about of external style training, stances, kicks, etc. It is not a YMCA- new age type training I have my Tai Chi students do. They train as a Martial Art with health benefits.
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He needs work ( so do we all), however his attitude is good. Slow and steady he will do ok. I am not rushing him nor do I have reason or plan to do so. I see his pace for understanding and doing and will work within that.
 
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Christmas Eve, I spent some of it at the Kyudojo. It was not crowded, but not empty either. A few of the regulars were there for a while. I mostly just work. On my form. There was one of my Sempai-Sensei there who gave me a few pointers. The main one was I was not lined up properly with the mato when shooting. Another thing I made a point of doing was focusing on the center of the mato, not just the mato and the yumi placement. Once I did that, my hit rate went up! I will be keeping that in mind again from now forward. I had not been doing that for a while, putting to much thought into aiming the Yumi. The next few weeks will tell how much I improve. I have to sign up for the Shinsa mid Feb. I am determined to make Yon-dan next year! It will not change any thing, except my pride in myself. Sometimes that is enough, to have a confidence boost.
I have a hope though as a sideline though. I want to visit the Kyudojo in Kamakura. I heard they will not let the general public in to shoot. I am hopeful as a Yon-dan and a Chan priest from their sect Rinzai ( I think they are ), the head person or managing person will let me shoot. That is my hope. however first I have to make Yon-dan, because at Yon-dan you are taken serious as a Kyudoka.
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Shakuhachi wise, I have a new goal for next year. I had planed on another yearly pilgrimage to a Zen temple. However, I will change-up some this year, I was given a basic Komuso song to learn and an offer for instructions. Once I learn this I can go out “begging” with my acquaintance, the Komuso monk from Nara as an apprentice. I had heard it was a life changing experience for the acquaintance who offered me the lesson, to go out begging as a Komuso. So, that will be my pilgrimage and challenge this year, …er. Next Year. Go public playing and visit the Kyoto Zen temple.

 

LZ has a job doing hotel reviews. Sometimes they are very fancy places. She has been taking me along on the more interesting ones.

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I have not been writing/saying much about them. Mostly for me , unless there is some place nearby of interest, I just chill in the hotel and practice Shakuhachi.
LZ has mentioned that I can write and get paid for an article from some publisher dealing with the foreign readers.
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I do not consider myself a writer, even though I am doing this poor blog. However, I will start thinking along those lines, nothing to lose. So look for some small travel reviews upcoming on this blog. It is something we are doing as part of life in Japan and the Blasian experience.
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Sliver


Silver…
I have been back with the Silver steady now for several months. Silver is what we of the Silver Center call the place. The Silver Center refers to the workers are all of retirement age, you know Silver haired.
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At one time I may have been the youngest, I think that has changed. Still I am treated like the muscle of my group when we are out. It is kind of funny to me. However less funny as my back hurts. I practice mindful lifting when I am working my pitch fork.
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Still some places are brutal like when working on the side of a hill, maintain footing, stepping on fresh cut bamboo stumps and move a bunch of dead and cut grass and bush. This time of year there is a break from the struggle, in that the weather is cool and there are no mosquitoes!! That is a blessing to be grateful for, also the temps do not have one swimming in sweat.

 
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Anyway the guys, my fellow workers are the backbone of Japan. Blue collar workers, down to earth folks. Different from the Kyudo people or the Yachting people. Although to me they are the same. Just people doing different stuff. I have notice their attitude towards me changed somewhat.
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Fortunately not in a bad, way. I was a curiosity before, now it is more like I am one of them. I am sure before me many had not spoken with a gaijin much less one of my hue. Several joke and kid around with me more, some who said nothing or little, now speak, sometime jokingly. It is interesting the noted change, at least I notice. I still stay off to myself during breaks and stuff, because I do not want to have to struggle with understanding, and I am usually a loner anyway. A sociable loner. The language thing though is really my weak spot, I need to develop that more this year. That holds me back from being all that I can be.
 
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Sometimes I think what a long strange trip it been to get here from my early life beginnings, in Philly and Virginia. Then there was the West Coast life, so very different. A Southern and Northern version. Now in Japan hanging with the locals a city employee manual laborer. Laughing and sweating together. Some of the guys I really like and the work bonds us.

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I have developed calluses at this late age, and my back hurts. However I look at it as continued training and practice. I ride my bike a lot but I do not do much lifting and muscle work, so this is good training. I can be very lazy about strength training, which is important at my age.

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So the Silver is a double blessing to be grateful about. The even though small money helps us have a life other than basic food and paying rent. Kyudo is costly even without buying stuff, there is transportation and dojo use fees. There is also my Shakuhachi lessons. Not really a lot but still it all adds up, even living a simple life as we do.

吹禅 – Sound bites


Sound bites…

 
As far back as I can remember, I have never had a new musical instrument. New as in brand new, not pre-owned. I always purchased used stuff, I never had the money to do otherwise. I was into recycling, and used stuff way before it was fashionable and “in”. Loved pawn shops, back in the day. Hard to find now…and there is eBay. But Yeah, I have been before my time on several things, that is how I roll, sort of weird, on my own beat and sometimes ahead of even myself. 🙂
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Ok re-reading this, I recall my acoustic guitar was purchased new. I was starting a solo career and needed a good “axe”. Oh well, but the general point of this is the same, so read on…
 
I was close to buying a new Shakuhachi when I first started lessons. Hmmm , now thinking on it I did purchase, two brand new Shakuhachi’s before I took lessons. However they were El Cheapo brand. Not really considered instruments by my Sensei. He gave me a plastic one to practice with rather than use mine. So that pretty much says it all, ne!
Ok, I digress…
Hmmm, oh yeah, so I was going to painfully buy a new Shakuhachi. Recommended maker is called by my Sensei one of the top makers in Japan, if not the top. I was somewhat resigned to making this purchase. I was expecting to shell out $1,000 about for a cheap student model from this maker. Now $1,000 is not really off base for a good instrument, you pay in that range for a Yumi. However was not expecting to pay that for a student model to start with…
Handmade is expensive, for a reason. It is just that much harder when you do not have money to shell out for something that is not going to make you money back, like a tool for work.
 
Well as it turns out I happened across a Shakuhachi in the recycled shop here. I took a chance and purchased it. I figured it would be better than the Plastic I was using, and I could return, my Kyudo Sempai’s bamboo Shakuhachi. So I purchased this Shakuhachi.
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As it turns out sensei had heard of the maker, when I showed him the flute. He said it was a shockingly good buy. New it would have been in the same price range as what I planned on buying, but this was older, a $1,000 old money is worth less now. Or something like that. Hmmm If it cost $1000 then it would cost, $2,000 now. Ok I think that is it…whatever Still, it is a student level model, but good quality one. So yeah, I scored with my Flute! Yatta!
 
However…
 
What I have learned is, this is a good Shakuhachi I have now for playing solo or with traditional instruments. It is tuned to the “old” scale. It is difficult to play with modern instruments, the player (mostly) and the shakuhachi have to be of higher skill than me. After some consulting with my Sensei, a Shakuhachi tuned to modern scale would be more versatile for what I have in mind musically, he says. A standard level not student or Pro. The old traditional Shakuhachi pieces, the recycled store Shakuhachi is fine., great in fact. It is a good instrument and playing traditional songs no problem…until I achieve more discerning ear and want to change up.
 
When I was a kid, when I wanted something musical, or most things really, as the eldest, I had to work, save, something to raise the money. My youngest brother, also turned musician, with me being long gone, and one less mouth to feed, my mother helped him buy his equipment. He always had better gear than me. When he passed away, I got his music gear. Two of his Basses I still have and use. One I am planing on selling to purchase a replacement. The other I will keep and use until, I can not.
So, yeah the point is here that my brother got help starting with his music career, I did not and always, mostly had recycled stuff.
 
My mother passed away recently. I was surprised to learn I was to get a small bit of money. I am not wired to be just crazy with money or wasteful. I set aside a small amount to upgrade some music stuff I have had for years, or /and wanted. The rest went into the house fund, (food, bills, living stuff) and bit for LZ to use as she wanted. I got a couple of things I wanted, portable, battery operated, Bass amp. I have wanted one like this for a while. I purchased a small plug-in a couple of years back, but this one is way cool and versatile. I also picked up a thing called the “beat buddy” . Basically a programmable electronic drummer. I am thinking, solo act or near solo again. Maybe some street musician stuff with shakuhachi and drums, and a bass track.
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Ok, so yeah, I got “deals” as in floor model (used), on this stuff. There was still a little money left over, on my budget. I am thinking after tossing around the new bass, or new keyboard idea. Shakuhachi came to the forefront, maybe add a little more to that fund…make an investment in quality. You do not lose when you go with quality…people or things.
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A brand new Shakuhachi, made by one of the top makers in Japan, named Kono Gyokusui. More likely someone who is a family member carrying on the family business.

I was given, before a DVD of the family making Shakuhachis. A documentary. It is only in Japanese. ONe of the people who came to visit the ‘Old Man” and get or test a flute was some famous Player. I have seen his pictures. I can not place the name right now. Anyway, the Otosan has 2 sons he trained and they all work together at a home shop.

Hmmmm, an investment in myself…A final departing gift from my Mum…

 

My Sensei says he is sure I can find what I need in the 2,000 range and he will help me select one from his friend the Master Builder. ( I saw one sold on ebay for $2500.00 . An old one that had been repaired.)
I can choose the one I like, no pressure to buy, if not a selection on hand, come again to see the next batch. Hmmmm. More than I had planned on spending.
 
I checked with a few makers in the states, from them it will cost about 500.00 less, maybe. Not really much of a saving considering the fine points I get from the going local purchase, more so from a personal friend introduction. Writing this down help me clarify the comparison, the real value in shopping local.
 
….
 
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I have been given a recital date for my student performance on the Shakuhachi. My sensei has a combination show planned with another Sensei who teaches the Koto. The show and closed luncheon party will be in Feb. 
The next month will be my 2 year anniversary of Shakuhachi study. I have plans to go another pilgrimage to a Zen Komuso temple. It is also about this time my Sensei plans on taking me to see the Shakuhachi maker. This is not just a quick let’s go to the shop and buy a Shakuhachi thing. This takes time to arrange and to buy. Custom/semi-custom made in the States, would take about six months to make, and I would not get to hear it, feel it, connect. Sort of mail order brideish, but with a guarantee.
Thinking more on it now, it will be not just a store purchase, but an experience into the old school way of shopping from a craftsman. I was told, several would be selected for me to try based on my criterion. Then my Wife, my Sensei, and myself would go to the home/shop have tea and play/listen to them all then choose, or not. There was always new ones being made. There was no rush , no pressure.
 
 

Shaolin in Fuji’s Shadow

Shaolin in Fuji’s Shadow

Getting my Chinese Martial art footing in Japan has been a challenge, has been and still is really. However I am speaking more the space of a toe hold. So it seems rich as I write.

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I have gotten a space that works comfortably for now at least with the new student that has started. It also gives me time before and after his class to have another class or two for the same slot I am renting. 
My Shaolin student has been out sick for a while, I do not expect him back until after the holiday to see if he can work with the new parameters. Really the only issue is he wanted it later on Sunday but that can not happen, so he seems serious, if he is, he will make the earlier time slot or the later one.
 
There is also a mother who has been wanting to start he son, I can offer him a 30 min slot same day earlier. If all works well, i can have two or three sessions on Sundays. That will be my regular Kung Fu teaching day. Or as I have to come to think of it as Shaolin Dharma training sessions.
 
It is also nice to have a space to call a center, rather than just a Park or Shrine, give the teaching more of a rooted feeling. Besides, “winter is coming” hard enough to get students, but being out in the rain and cold is not training that most want just starting out on this path.
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It is also great for me to get my own regular practice time, before the class starts, I can get in my own hour or more of training. No bugs, cold, rain, snow, extreme heat, nice. I am not that young any more some comfort is good. Life, enjoying life is living in Balance. That is the Buddhist way, the middle way, in all things.
 

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As it was my first real settled in class at the new place today, I made a portable Altar for my Late Shifu. I burned incense in his honor. It gave the space a sense of being a school, not just a rental room.

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One other thing I came up with as use of the space is to offer a free meditation class, a 30 min beginners class for anyone. That would be another real method of spreading Shaolin Dharma. As part of my forming of the “Osaka Lohan Chan Temple” .
That would help some of Priest Vows on a couple of levels. 
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I am finding the path for me under Music/Chan is more difficult to understand, locate. I am finding more interest in the Komuso path, however it is hard to find concise info on the Path, what one does, other than play, is this a purely solo a Yogi type path or does it have a “show compassion” to other side as well? What is the real link between the sounds and the playing, just the breath, or the breath plus certain tones, to activate certain Chakras. Do the sutras have a certain, breath pattern , tones that translate to Komuso songs. Many question few answers. More research. Somewhat limited research at this time. I could just track down a teacher and do whatever to join, and find out just what is what with the Komuso of this day. Are they all about the show of some festival? Are there others who really care about their spiritual path. Anyway, as said my time with this research is limited. For now I still need to practice , not only my shakuhachi, but my Kyudo. The goal for next year is to pass Yon-dan. That is my focus, really to get Go-dan. Then, I can consider other items, other challenges…like A Komuso teacher and get some in-depth Shakuhachi spiritual training. 
 
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Anyway there is is still also develop the Osaka Lohan Chan Temple, home of the Shaolin Dharma: Martial Arts and Meditation
 
 
We’ll, see what the tide brings next year…because
 
“man plans, God laughs”
Happy Festivus.

Kuietly Kyudo Krusing


Wow, it has been over a month, since a post. 

Yeah, well, life happens and you just have to roll with it. Sorry my 4 readers. 

Speaking of which, I was surprised to found out I have more followers from Tumbler to here, than on WordPress to here. Strange, different type there no doubt, hmmm , what type are there, am I weird or normal weird, or un-weird to whom. 

No matter I digress….
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Yeah, it has been a while since posted. A fair amount of stuff went on, but who is really interested…right. It will not change the election results. That is a real bummer with Trump as Pres. Thank God I am not living in the states! Still there will be repercussions. Even for us permanent resident card holders.
There are those who tune in for the Kyudo Tales, encounters with joy and sorrow. That is when I get the most hits. Hmmmm maybe from the G+ link. Oh well, whatever…just tripping.
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So yeah Kyudo…
Even though there has not been much verbiage, it is still on, like donkey kong.
 
I went back to the States in Oct.. I do not believe have said that, or posted. Yeah, it was a surprise to me also, getting to go again so soon. It was short, a mostly directly to deal with my Mum’s left over affairs trip. I did get to quietly see a few people. One of which was my Kyudo Federation Sensei in Ca. I went to a class. We chatted some and I was given the once over on my kyudo development. Over all I got a clean bill of health and a couple of tips. It was all inside Makiwara dojo stuff, but my Resha tai hai was good. So it was something positive. 
That was the extent of my Kyudo for that trip.
Meanwhile back home in Osaka, a Tai Kai was coming shortly after my return. I had a few weeks of practice time before. Not really that I expected to do good, it was a just simply, practice, sometime I needed.
The Tuesday full kimono training session are interesting. After each round of shooters those that watch, critiqued , then switched. We blind pick Ya, from a bundle to choose, who goes where in the line up for shooting.
All done very seriously, and taken so, with a open heart within the spirit of training, but still fun.
 
I usually do not get a lot of chances at shooting at these things, it is mostly TaiHai stuff and other Sharies. I shoot a little for me, afterwards. I had not taken any notice of any improvement, so had not been thinking about it, too much, next Shinsha is March. However NOW is the time to think on this, March is coming soon!
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Tai Kai Day. It is chilly. I am pleased I got my Haori Jacket returned from the embroiders. I had a mon installed. My late Father in Law’s Haori has been missing since we arrived here. It was put someplace “safe” until we were settled, which is unremembered by my Mother-in-Law, and believed left at an old apt that is difficult to access from Family. Anyway, I purchased a one, it is perfect for those chilly times when not shooting, and still want to main the one’s Samurai coolness look.
 
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Ok, yeah the Tai Kai. Fairly good turnout. Several dojos from the area. I did most of the photography as my part of the hosting dojo team. It was a long , but fun day. My shooting was nothing to write home about, or in this case, post about, but I have done worse. Perhaps I have hit my bottom point. I got 4 hits out of 12. My Sempai who has been doing Yon-dan Shinsha with me, says I beat him by two.
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I was feeling like some progress was being made. I paid more attention to my scores over the next few practice sessions.
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My shooting is not impressive, however looking at my records from the last few months. There is a small overall rise in my scoring. Before general average was about 33%. Now I am at about 40+%.
If I can get up to 55% by March. I will have a good shot at Yon-Dan.
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Yon-Dan is the most hardest, I keep hearing…the changing point. People take you seriously as I Kyudo player when you reach Yondan.

On other Kyudo news, I had been using a straw hay bale in my Yard as a Kyudo Makiwara since I got setup here in This part of town. I was driven for those ranks, so I knew I had to practice even when not getting to the dojo. I had been struggling with the setup. mostly keeping the ya from going into the wall and through the hay bale. it mostly worked.
LZ was clearing out some stuff on Yahoo auction, I gathered something as well. I had some extra Kyudo items, plus an old Namisun I was using. I sold everything as a started kit and made enough to purchase a Makiwara, real pro-made one. Whooo hoo.

 

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