And the beat goes on…Jan 2017

I got a note from a friend asking if myself and the band, wanted to do a few opening numbers for his band at a foreigners club in Kobe. It is not really a “Gaijin” club, but it is.anyway, I said I would check. The Doc of course wanted to, the drummer after a bit also wanted to. So I put the wheels in motion. I also planned the song list and figured I would do most of the singing as that is the way it usually rolls. I also figured since I was doing all this the band should go under another name, since I was asked-by my friend, what was the band name? I said “Blues international”, and told the guys. There was No argument.

 
Show night comes, get setup, I hand out the agreed to song list. We get ready and the Doc says, we are doing blah blah to start. I could not believe what he said. This was a song there was some question about even doing , he was asking about. Calmly I said, I just gave you the song list, it says Mustang Sally. He looks at it and goes oh yea! 
We start playing he is having some issues with his guitar or something, besides not standing he is kneeling on the stage mostly. Hmmmmm, he is acting weird I am thinking.
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Ok, his song is up, now he stands and starts talking, Hello, I am doc blah blah, we are called the Matsuo Blues Band. I rolled with it. Next song, he is kneeling again, up and down… my friend gives him a stool, after some talk about him standing and his age. I rolled with it, he is younger than me. Anyway, overall it went well, considering the drummer stopped the wrong place on a song, and lost his beat on another, the doc, I pointed to him for his guitar solo and he missed it. Most of the songs had, really messed up endings. All of which is expected for a bunch of guy not played together since May and had no rehearsal. There were parts were we sounded pretty decent when I heard some of the recorded play back. Oh well, the was no money involved, it was just a shot at playing in. Kobe again at a different club. So yeah, it went ok. I made a note to myself, really try to not do that again with these guys. Not bad guys, but not satisfying to play with. I am not saying I will not ever, I am just saying I will not pursue playing with them.
 
Snafkin
Another friend contacted me. He is a percussionist. I played with him a couple of time before. We met at a show I was doing for Snafkin at the community center. He is nice guy also. However much more professional about his playing. So he was doing a show at Snafkin and asked if I wanted to join in. I said yes of course, thinking it would be the usual jam type after whoever or sit in with Bass. Still I worked on a couple of songs with me playing guitar, just incase, the club master asked me to do a song.
 
So it turns out the show is him, sort of called. Mario live and friends. He invited a bunch of musicians he knew and we all played with him, really he played with us.
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Everyone did a few songs and he played percussion. I was shocked to find I was the second in line to play, and there was just the two of us playing for my song. Ok, so I was prepared. I went into my solo artist mode. I have been giving that some thought for Snafkin anyway. It went ok, not as well as I would have liked, i could have used more practice and I wanted to song in Japanese at least on part of one song. I chickened out, I caved, however the is the Feb. jazz band, I have time to practice more.
 

So Snafkin went over all well. I did a couple of songs, and I played bass on a couple of songs for a guy Mario and I did a show with.

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I was also asked to play bass with another guy on his set. I met a new person, who I got to chat with a bit in English. She lived in the Bay Area for a couple of years with her husband.

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She is a friend of two people I already know that were there performing. I also got to speak a little English with another woman, a piano player, who friended me on FB after she saw me playing at the community center. It was a pleasant evening, meeting new people, seeing familiar ones.

 

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It made me more secure about setting up my own solo and band performance. What I need is someone to play with who is bilingual. Like the Doc but a better musician. That and or step up my Japanese. I got a couple of tips on playing Shamisen (Sanshin), that was cool and helpful. really the only small bummer was I do not get any pictures of my solo acoustic set.

 

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Just one play Bass for another guy I played with before. oh well, not really a big deal. Another nice part to the deal was I got picked up and dropped off at home.

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Hatsu-kai 2017

 

 
Spring first shooting. I enjoy this group this is my third, I believe attendance. It was cold ! I was thankful we have an inside Dojo. Even then it was still cold! 😦
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Funny how some things work out for the best. If I had joined the nearby Dojo, I would have frozen “my grapes”. At the time I was heart broken, but now, so glad. There is a lesson there, trust the Universe! My mother would have said, all things work out for those who trust the Lord.
 
I have been putting my practice time in regularly, not much improvement I can see. Whatever, it no longer matter. I just do my thing, and work on whatever to improve my center of shooting. I will no longer concern myself with the next Shinsa. I will be ready when I am ready. After all, it affects no one but me, and will change nothing for my life. I spoke with a guy at the Silver center. He is a san-dan in Judo and Kendo. He said Yon-dan is a hardest one to pass there also. So I guess it is the same in all the Japanese Arts. They are hard on San-dan – Yon-San.
 
So anyway, my Tai-hai is getting better at least. I get none to little corrections on/at the weekly practice sessions. That is good. So when I am finally able to make some consistent hits, I will be ready for the Shinsa. The next one is coming up in March, however, looking at my current scores, I will pass on going again, no use wasting my money.
 
So yeah the Hatsu-kai. It was mostLy just our dojo, and there was another group of high schoolers I believe, who also attended. It was cold, but we made do.
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I did not do well, as was expected. I got one hit out of 8 shoots. I was quite surprised when I got a prize for being in 40th something place. 🙂 I took a lot of pictures as usual. Along with some of my other classmates this time.
 
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Anyway my placement did not matter, it was fun. I enjoy my dojo mates, that is really more important about these things. The sense of fellowship. That is the one thing I miss the most about being away from my Kung Fu family and Shifu. We had monthly Friday night closed door sessions with Shifu and sometimes and Uncle it really gave us a sense of fellowship, family. That beside the sharing of info, and training together bonded us.
 
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This month was the anniversary of my Kung Fu Shifu passing. It is always sad to think of the lost of him, yet up-lifting to know how blessed I was to have the memories of that time. The same goes for the lost of Nagomi Sensei with Kyudo. I really had very little time with him , but in my mind and heart it was very meaningful. I would really really like to pass my Yon-dan Shinsa at my original school, I believe that would please him…but, in the big picture it matters not at all. I am sure his spirit would be pleased where-ever, whenever it happens, the important thing is to Ganbraru and not quit! Knocked down seven, stand eight!
 
If interested you can view my pictures from the HatsuKai here…click
 

Akimashite Omedetou – 2017

 

Akimashite Omedetou – 2017

 
…And we are off on a new adventure. It will be an interesting time ahead. I am not going to even go into the political stuff. It is way too much and like poopers, everyone has an opinion. Like poopers, some are pretty crappy.
 
As for me…sigh. 
 
The student that I thought was going to be fairly dedicated, quit. He said he was going to just do some basic exercises. I do not understand, what it is with people they want , well they say they want to learn something, but then find out, yes one does have to practice. They quit. Art any art does not just happen, there is no Matrix like pill you can take and suddenly you know Kung Fu, Karate, Kyudo, play an instrument, paint, dance whatever. Yeah, life happens but you deal with it and find a pace to study, practice that you can work with and keep on keeping on. 
Then there are the people who sign up to stuff, or even to get info, but do not respond to questions, like, what are your goals in doing this? I am tired and a bit depressed, I will get over it. No matter, I will retain my practice for me as always and not concern myself about passing on any knowledge. It does make me feel I am letting down my Shifu though, but I am sure he understands and has most likely been there. It if is meant to be more, it will be.
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My Kyudo practice status does not help my mood. I thought I was improving, but my last few days of shooting went down hill again. I will not give up, I will not even think of it. However I am developing an attitude of acceptance, this maybe as far as I can go and just shoot to shoot. No thought of Shinsa, pass or fail, just better my form and shoot. That being my only goal, perfection of form. Hit no hit, no matter. Sort of like doing Zazen.
The goal is the journey not the destination sort of thing. It is said when you sit and meditate and your goal is to be enlightened, you move further away from it. Sit, meditate just because you can, not to gain anything. Perfect one’s form, back straight, breath, slow smooth and deep, non-abiding awareness of mind, no goals, no attachments, perhaps other than just sitting, connecting to all that is. Still that in itself is a goal, no?
There are times when meditating, that one disconnects and yet connects to the source. It is the briefest of moments, because when it happens and one because aware of it and thinks, this is it, you disconnect and it is no longer there!

Yet, I see people shoot and hit and hit and hit. However when one just focuses on the hit and do it, they are classified as target whores. They are not just letting it happen, they are focus on making it happen. One has to focus on not focusing to make it happen…headache come from analyzing that thought too much. Still, it is frustrating knowing I shot better before, years before now, yet now after all this training and effort, my shooting sucks. I am walking the “plateau”

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I did the annual 108 arrow shoot at my home dojo. It was interesting… again. I go through sections of the shoot with a different mind-set. Not on purpose, but it just happens. I observe. Starting with attention to every detail. Focus trying to improve my form, because working with the makiwara is all about one’s form not hitting.

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Then counting and shooting to get it done then back to focus on detail, mindfulness, a return to purpose, not just to shoot. It is over all quite the learn experience. Touching on the spiritual meaning of doing it. A stand-on for the 108 strikes of the bell at the Buddhist temple for the 108 “sins”, distractions. However done with arrows instead of a gong.

Shakuhachi, there seems to be a couple of ways to approach playing. Perfection of a sound, a note, the melody, as music does not matter. It is a spiritual tool. Perfection of a musical piece, the musician way. The expression of the song, the melody. Another, the use of the breath. The flute is a tool to controlling the breath, the variables, benefits, associated with that. Sound does not matter, melody does not matter, only the breath, the source of life matters.

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The Shakuhachi is a tool for controlling, developing that. The breath is our connection to the universe. We live because of our breath. God breathed life into the clay and gave us being, it is said. There is yet another side, that of the sound, the music being an offering. This was mentioned to me by the Komuso in Nara. I spoke to him of doing my yearly pilgrimage to some Komuso Zen temple and was told, there os one in Kyoto. I could visit the ground, I could not enter without a teacher, permission, a pass from the teacher something like that. However I could sit in the garden and play, make a “musical offering”. I had that “sense” when I visited the temple in Wakayama last year, and played at the hall entrance, but I did not put it into a named thought of making an offering. Giving something of myself, my breath in to sound as an offering to the Source, to Buddha. Not Buddha as a “god”. But Buddha as the Spirit of life. We do not worship Buddha as a God in Zen. Buddha is an enlighten being, an awaken soul, Buddha is us , we are Buddha, Buddha is everything, yet nothing. Form and formlessness.

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I am not sure what I am doing these days and sort of frustrated, sort of depressed, sort of goal-less with a sense of time fading away, being on a fruitless journey. The Journey is the fruit and that is all there is until the end? I guess. I do not have that many years left, to figure, work, achieve, what? Maybe 15-20 if lucky or unlucky depend on one’s view-point. WWW 3 happens, the world in left a bed of ash, poison and radiation, doubtful if surviving would be considered lucky.  
 
“The purpose of life is service to others”. Nice thought. I thought I had found my way to do that, several times. I had more of a plan, a dream before coming to Japan. However the path keeps dissolving, and the dream fades away with the tide of life. So it must not be the “right” path. According to the 8 fold Buddhist path, to lessen/reduce suffering, one needs the ” right” job. Easy to say, difficult to do. There is no one “right” for everyone. With limited language skills voluntary work is limited as well. I had thought of free meditation, or Tai Chi classes, those skills I can share. Yet people put little value on things that are free. Perhaps the answer lies with being a faceless Kumoso giving pleasure via the sounds of the Shakuhachi, sharing my life force for donations, which in turn would be given to charity. A faceless service to those who suffer and giving some value to my appointment as a priest and talent as a musician. Well the quest continues, as does the New Year. All I can really do is continue to step, train and keep my heart, mind, spirit open for guidance. That is all any of us can do really. Strive to improve, to take another step, stay linked to the Universe, stay healthy to take that next step and be ready for whatever is on the path.
Happy New Year! Strap in for the ride. May we all do better. _/|\_
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