Return to Paradise…Kung Fu Kyudo Sunday


Return to Paradise…Kung Fu Kyudo Sunday
I was looking forward to Sunday and shooting with the Kyudo Kai people. Real Kyudo, decent equipment. I was emailed the address, which turned out to be walking distance close to the hotel. However, first was a visit to my Tai Chi Mantis brothers. They were meeting on Sat. and on Sunday. I did not go on Sat as I wanted to go to ChoZenji and the hope to do Kyudo or at least something else of interest.  So Sunday morning it was. They started at 7:00 am. I thought about it and figured there was no reason for me to be there that early, I went in at 8:00.
 As it turned out there was a marathon race that day, so early morning travel was disrupted somewhat. I was not sure I could get to the park or if they were having the practice even with the race going. I was somewhat thinking, this may be another letdown. I figured I hoped it would not affect them and found out I could walk to the park in about 30 minutes. It was not a big deal! So off I went. It was a pleasant walk almost a direct line from my hotel. I found it easily. The group was also easy to spot even though it was just three of them. 
I walked over and asked for a couple of people mention by my Sempai in the States. They were curious and cautious, who is this guy?  I introduced my self, they were very welcoming after that. Turns out I am their leader’s Sempai. We chatted about this and that, people, from, kung fu, philosophy. It was pleasant almost like a family reunion, meeting cousins you had not meet before. I got someone to do a form so I could film it. I wanted to relearn having forgotten it from lack of practice.  We talked more about the differences between versions from different schools and philosophy. I did a standard basic form, Bumbo, to compare with theirs. It was a nice visit. I did not stay long as I did not want to interrupt too much their training. We took a group picture so I could post and send to my Sempai in Cal, to show I did make it by.
From there I went back to the hotel to rest more. I would go to shoot with Kyudo group later that afternoon.
After another nap, I set out for the Kyudojo. It was another easy walk from the hotel. About 25 min. I came across a few interesting sights on the walk. Including a Whole Foods market where I picked up dinner for the evening, after Kyudo practice and lunch for the next day. Coolness and yummy vegetarian stuff. I missed that. I use to eat from there often when living in Ca!
I locate the dojo. It is in the parking lot of a veterinarian hospital which the guy and his wife own. It was a nice setup. Comfortable and although outside and open, it was private! The owner lent me one of his Yumis. He was a large guy so the size was right also the ya!. Many of the group from the other night were there. We had a little concern with a rain shower but it did not last. It was one of those brief and light Hawaiian showers. Unlike the two I had been in after the Chozenji class while waiting at the bus stop a couple of nights!
When I first went up to shoot, I could feel all eyes were on me. New bow, new environment, pressure…my first shot hit center! Yeah, cool I thought…total luck! My next shot was a miss, but that is ok. I stepped off the platform. Others took shots. Some hit some did not. There were about 10 people there but only four were shooting the others were new, and had not even taken their first shot as yet I make ready for another shot. This time the elder guy, the sensei from the dojo, suggests I need to press down with the base of my thumb and not the tip so much, so it would open a hollow in palm better. I thank him, and shot again, of course missing when doing a new adjustment. However my form was ok, and I was relaxed.
The rest of the time was spent chatting with a few people there. Which was ok, I had gotten to shoot a few times, and a small bit of instruction. I was pleased. I would have shot more, however, after being asked about a couple of the new people if I thought they were ready to take their first shot. I agreed they looked ready the Matos were raised so that the shooters could stand closer and not try to start with the full 28 meters. With that being done, I decided it was time for me to leave. Several others had already taken off for the day. It was very casual shooting time. People came as left as they wanted. I was offered a ride to the hotel earlier but turned it down having said I walked and wanted to go to Whole Foods on the way back. Since there was no rain, it was ok for me to walk. 
I walked back and settled down with my dinner and a little TV. It was a good day. I was feeling the trip was worthwhile. The ChoZenji visit was not that great, disappointing in fact, but the other stuff went ok and I met some nice folks.
Monday would be the last session, then back to Nihon. The weather was nice, but I was sort of ready to return to Japan. All that I wanted to do was mostly done. I did not get to sail, my sailing friend was still in Greece and the Shakuhachi/ Kyudo master was traveling. I had heard he was maybe in Japan. Oh well!
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Return to Paradise – My Chan Ancestral temple…Hsu Yun

My Chan Ancestral temple…Hsu Yun
My next stop for Sat which was a two-part adventure was to visit the home temple of my Chan sect in the States. Hsu Yun Chan temple. This is where my late Abbot was ordained. I wanted not only wanted to visit there but to pray for my departed clan members. My Zen/Chan teacher and my Abbot who ordained me.

I made my way to the temple which turned out to be on the same street as the Kyudo group’s meeting place. When I approached the temple I could hear chanting and prayers being said in Chinese. Ohhh. I hope I will not be Interrupting something, I thought. I could see people inside walking around in a ceremony, I could see a couple of people outside taking pictures and one person involved in the ceremony doing some filming with an iPad. Earlier I saw someone with a phone camera outside taking pictures. So I figured it was ok to take pictures and walk around. I would, however, try to be low key about it. Which is kind of funny when one thinks about it. A Black guy hanging around a Chinese temple taking pictures, being low key!! hahaha. Not disruptive, and respectful as possible would be a better thought, wording.

I walked up the main steps as walking on rice paper. I hung back from the doors, yet, even so, I was out in the open and got looks as the line inside walked past the open doors, as I made my way up the stairs. Just observing, trying to be small. I slowly walked around the outside. In a moment of boldness and a break in the line, I took a few quick pictures. Thinking to myself this listed as a sort of tourist place, people come to see the temple, so I should not be so self-conscious. I slowly walked around the front grabbing a few shots of the building.

I walk around to the side, as I am starting to feel the call of nature. I spotted a woman just sitting on a chair by the steps, looking like she was just relaxing or waiting for someone. I asked her in Chinese if she spoke English? She looked at me like I just landed from the moon. Sort of like when some people of color say they get the blank look when they speak Japanese to a Japanese. Perhaps she was in shock that I spoke to her in Chinese. So I asked in English where is the toilet? She snapped to awareness and smiled and gave me directions. I thanked her and bowed in Gassho, she smiled.

I walked around to the side and saw more buildings, smaller, and they also were open and no people, nice I thought. After making my pit stop I went exploring. I went into the first one and saw it was some kind of memorial hall I am guessing for the departed souls. There were a lot of plaques on the wall and an Altar in the center of the floor, with a stand, marked offerings. Ok, cool this would be easy enough. I went in slowly, checking things out grabbed a few pictures and went up to the altar. I did the multi-bows thing and finished up. I moved on to the next building. It was the same. However, there was a man sitting outside. I wondered would he say something about me being there. I went by him with my palms together and bowed. He returned the bow and motion. Something I did not get from the Young Priest guy at ChoZenji, in fact maybe from anyone there except one person who was just on a stay there. It is felt in Japan if you bow to someone and they do not return it is rude. I also did not get it from the monks there at the temple when they looked at me from inside the temple. In their defense they were busy. I am guessing they also just saw some strange black tourist dude, watching the show. Still… Anyway…I digress.

I continued into this building, it was open and had misc food on trays and bags on the floor. It also had groups of birds eating stuff off the offering trays around the room. I did a repeat of actions of the first building and departed.

Now I went up to the rear of the main building, again took pictures. Next went around to the front of the main building. I watched more and made my way around to the other side. Many eyes watching. I am not sure what they were doing at that point. Not walking around still singing and chanting which had been going on the whole time I was there, even before I arrived because I could hear them when I was still up the street.
I walk around now with palm facing. I watch some of the proceedings from the other side of the building at the open door. I couple of the monks who are doing the ceremony look at me, I bow, they continue with they are doing, chanting and beating on a drum. I think hummm, kind of rude, but this is not Japan.

I head down the stairs on the other side, I had seen another open set of doors when I was first coming up. Some kind of lower level room. I walk by and peek in. It is mostly empty except for a couple of Nuns. I notice there is a small library of books and statues in a corner. There are several Altars. and some chairs and kneeling benches as in the other building. Ok, I figure it must be ok to go in here. I go to each of the Altars and make full bows. Another nun enters, I continue. No one says anything or gives me more than a brief look. I figure I am ok. I take a few pictures and look at the photos on the wall. A couple of other Nuns come and go. No one says anything. I leave, I am considering looking into one more building I saw, I am unsure it kind of looks like a kitchen area or something. I start to walk as someone comes out of there. She sees me and comes over to me as she is walking by. Are you here to see the temple, she asks in English. I say yes and show her a print out of the clergy on our sect’s webpage. I point to the Master, she says yes that is him. I point out my late teacher, she says I do not know her. I explain why I am here and to pray. She says yes, go inside and pray. She says there are people up there, go in and join them, they are praying. I say thank you. However thinking, no way will I just walk in there. I do not know what is going on. I will just hang outside and observe.

I did that, taking a spot just offset from the door, but I could see, I could also be seen. When the group bowed, I bowed, I stood palm together, quietly. Now inside the were taking something off the wall and stuffing it into a large trash can. Then the group came outside. I stepped back, but still stayed, now standing with the group. I watched, the can was taken down to the parking lot and the insides set ablaze. I knew what was happening and spiritually became part of it standing off to the side, a part of, yet apart. The group afterward went back in. Then the monks left out the side door along with many others leaving by front and side doors. I am thinking ok it is done. I can go inside once everyone leaves.

It is then I am approached by a man. Who says something I could not understand. He is handicapped. I reposed in Chinese “I speak English”. He nods and says something else. It took me a moment to understand his English because of his voice deformity. He asked something that sounded like are you from Tibet? Are you something-something, I had on my Kyosho at this point, when I had come to stand outside because I wanted to be seen as not just another looky-lo tourist. I had something to do with Buddhism.

Ok, so the guy is talking, much of it I am not getting. I am thinking he is nice but maybe just a bit mental. I cannot be rude and just blow him off so I try to listen and understand. I am starting to get something about the Dahli Lama visiting and also some other ranking Buddhist Monks. Did I see them I was asked? No, I said I missed that. He continues. Then I am getting to understand I can come inside and sit. Hesitantly I do that. I ask, may I go to the main Altar to pray? He says no, but here where he is pointing is ok. I thank him and do the Chinese full formal bows. I kneel, bow, then open and raise both palms. Three times I do this. When I am finished, he comes again. He now takes me around to each of the smaller Altars and explains what each of the Buddha’s represents. I full bow at each. We make our way around the main hall, with him explaining as we go. He waiting while I do respects at each. We are back to the main hall and floor. He is explaining now about the three main Buddhas and their function and colors and meanings and some other things that I was not quite getting. The Monks return, he says something about me to them, they smile, and nod a bow, the ladies seated in the hearing range also smile nicely and nodding their heads. A kind smile, like welcome not like a weird smile. Another ceremony starts. The guy leaves me and returns to where he was in the beginning. I stand off to the side and follow along, chanting the sounds but not the words. I do this for a while then slowly make my way back to the other side of the hall stopping at a couple of the Altars to bow again and grab a few snapshots. I am ready to slip out the door. The guy that greeted me was there, also the woman who told me where that toilet was there. I bowed, they bowed. Then I figured I would take one last picture of the Altar of Kwan Kung. The guy motioned that I could go over to it to take the picture, while he still stood as part of the now started chanting and ceremonies group. I did so then make my way out the door bowing, they bowed in return. Chinese I have encountered tend to be much nicer once they know who you are. Some say they are much more real, some Japanese come off as nice at first but it is a fake nice. This has been told to me by Japanese. There is an old song that comes to mind. “Smiling Faces they sometimes tell lies”

Outside I am thinking …

WOW! That was a trip!
Amituofo!!

A link to the full photo album for this post can be seen here:

https://photos.app.goo.gl/Yav8hFujrgMcd9Af7

Return to Paradise… Kyudo at ChoZenji

 

Return to Paradise… Kyudo at ChoZenji

Sat came around there was morning classes at ChoZenji, but no evening stuff, zero on the weekend at night. Overall the amount of classes is limited. Maybe due to the are taught by volunteers.  Sat. during the day there was an array of classes at the center’s dojo. After the sitting of course, there was flower arranging, calligraphy, Aikido and “zen” archery .

I arrive at the Center early and sat in the community room, with several of the others. Everyone was introduced and what they did. An archery person was introduced. I said, oh you will be teaching the archery. He was a bit surprised and said. “I am just a student”…
The young head priest, (remember this guy he will come up later) says. Oh, you might as well teach, since Honda Roshi is traveling! Honda Roshi is the main guy for Kyudo also he is a Shakuhachi sensei. He is the one I really really wanted to see while there at the center. Major bummer he was not returning until next week!! Crap! Yet another downer! Anyway, after some chit chat with another senior there who was doing Aikido, I think or something. We all went to the main Hall to do Zazen. This time I had no problem with posture, only with my leg falling asleep, but that happens. 
Afterward, everyone split up and went to what class they were doing. I noticed the Archery guy went to the Kyudojo. The Young priest says to me there is a flower arranging class and demo being held, you can attend. I said, what about the archery? He replied oh, with Honda Roshi traveling it maybe not be a good day for that! Then he walks off. Humph, I thought, I will see about that and went to the Kyudojo, to speak with the guy who opened it up. Kyudo, Tai Chi, Shakuhachi was my whole purpose for coming. Yet I kept getting cut and shorted out from attending. I was not about to just take it with no questions. Sometimes you got to flow and sometimes you gotta take a stand. The bamboo bends but it has deep roots. In Tai Chi we bend to power but we stay rooted.
The Archery was getting set up when I came over. I explained to him my interest and background. He said well you can shoot with us no problem. I asked if I could do Kyudo not western archery, I’ve been there did that not really interested. He said sure, you can just go for it and not follow us. We ( him and one other guy, Les who had helped me before when first starting the Zazen) will just do our routine. We shoot about 12 arrows, then do the ChoZenji 10 step TaiChi, then shoot 12 again, then TaiChi, then repeat. This was explained by the other person, Les, who was I found out later is a senior, and that ran the Tai Chi Class. He had some other background in TaiChi I found out, and said he did a little Kyudo before and still had a glove. However, had not shot in a long time. Les was quite talkative, nice and helpful. He had been there for a long time and knew the founder and had trained Zen under him. As it also turned out he was familiar with my Chan teacher Zing Ming. He asked me are you also a priest? I saw you wearing a Rakuso, which I wore the first couple of days! He then went on to tell me his wife was friends with a white woman who went to China and became ordained, who lived in Las Vegas. Wow! I was shocked. I got a few interesting stories about the late master there from Les. We developed a connection.

Ok, so they got set up as did I. The equipment was funky! I found a bow I could use, however, I needed to re-tie the string. It was way too loose! The bow would flip around to it’s unstrung state when I shot. That took some time to correct. Next I had to find arrows. The only ones near my length were Makiwara ya, with Makiwara feathers. Sigh. After trying to shoot them and not have them not go near where I was aiming to shoot, I looked for some different ones. There was another set of range mato arrows, however, they were short for me, quite short, since I had no other choice than the markiwara ya, I figured I would try at least. With a lot of conscious effort, I was able to shoot. As I drew the bow I had to keep touching the tip of the arrow to see how far I had left to draw safely. Then I needed to compensate my right pull to be able to straighten my left arm as it should be. I was able to make a couple of hits, after much effort. It was a challenge but I was able to pull it off being fully mindful of what I was doing. I guess in a way it was helpful because I had to really pay attention to all parts of my draw.

The others continued with their shooting. A woman joined us. So the three of them did western shooting I did Japanese. In order to maintain harmony with the flow of shooting and fetching the arrows, I set my timing with them so everyone could retrieve their arrows at the same time. They shot 12 arrows to my 2. Their twelve arrows time also included them doing their weird funky, to me, Tai Chi. Which should have not even been called Tai Chi! I was told the founding master had learned Tai Chi Chuan in China. He was very accomplished in many Budo arts. He had several high ranks in Judo, Kendo, Karate, maybe more things which I can not recall. It is said he was a martial art genius.

He took what he considered the most important elements of the long form of Tai Chi Chuan and condensed it down to 10 steps. It was not supposed to be a Budo from, but a way to build “Chi/Ki” and focus the mind and spirit for shooting or whatever. There was also a loud Kiai in the form at times. It was a Zen tool for them, not a “Budo” or even a health art. Ok, I thought it was lame watching them do it, but that was just my opinion and perhaps a reflection of their skill. Either way, it was just my opinion which does not matter. So yeah, their 12 shots to my 2 shots. Kind of funny when you think about. I reflected at one point that my going through one cycle of Shooting with the correct breath, grounded stance, mindfulness was much more centering, calming, a release of attachments, focusing, Ki building than the soft karate they were doing. Just my opinion. If it worked for them, the program and the master…so be it! This went on for about an hour.

It was brought up at some point, not by me that maybe I could come In and shoot on my own since the Kyudojo was not being used much and I was coming back on Monday for an early class plus later that evening or another class. It made sense I could just hang out there and practice on my own, no one would be there using it. I thought as well it would be great. I had seen a back room where there were longer Ya so I thought ahhh! That would be cool! I would ask. We closed up the Dojo and I was shown how to put things away.

Les and I chatted for a while about, Tai Chi and his current Tai Chi teacher. Not the current in change person there. This was someone the founder or ex-master recommend he train with or something like that, to learn full Tai Chi. Anyway, he was I find out the person there at Chozenji that runs the Tai Chi class. I would join this class on Monday. Anyway, we spoke of misc martial things and training there at Chozenji. The difference between the old ways with the founder and former master and the current young admin, and his sometimes displeasure, with the new “way”. Also the strong point of the Martial art training there was Kendo/Hojo. A Shotokan Karate class was just added fro Sunday’s.

Afterward, I went back to the community room to gather my stuff to go to my hotel. The young head priest in charge since the master was traveling was there. When I came in he says. Oh, so you got to shoot! How was it? I said it was challenging, I had some issues with equipment. He replies I learned early on it is not the equipment but the shooter!

I took a breath…and replied, gently. I was feeling/reading a certain “vibe” from his comment. One could say the hairs on the back of my neck bristled a bit. I deepened my breath and then spoke. Yes, that is true, except in the case of safety and being the wrong equipment for me. The arrows were way too short, the string was not tied correctly. If I did not take care and make adjustments I or someone could have lost an eye or gotten otherwise injured. However, I did make it work, as I said it was just a challenge. My reply was not in a mean or a smart-ass way as he was in charge. I was respectful.

 

Next, I say, ahh since you are here I have a few questions, is that ok? He says ok, so I continue. Since we are talking Kyudo …I will be back on Monday for the early morning class and then that evening for the Tai Chi class. Is it possible for me to just hang out here and practice on my own? He says… I do not think that is a good idea. We have ways set, and it is better to have someone there who knows our way and rules. We do not want to get into just letting people come in and do their own thing. So not really a good idea. Ok, I say and drop the subject. 
I roll to the next question…

I ask; the music you were playing the other night, that was not a Honkyoku was it? Now he replies, that was something from Honda Sensei, we play Shakuhachi as Zen tool, not as a musical instrument. We use it to develop breath and the like. Some times blowing until we completely empty the full breath, not in keeping with a musical piece. It is ChoZenji Shakuhachi not a music piece like most people play these days. Me: again a breath and reply hmmm Honkyoku are Zen pieces. He said, not with most people I know, most I encounter they are playing as them as music. Honda sensei says one can play one note your whole life to work on getting it right, developing it fully, as Zen training. It is about breath and mindfulness… I say slowly “those you have met in your circle”. Yes, he says in my circle. I drop the subject again.

I move on to safer ground.

The next thing I ask is about some books that are there, earlier had I noticed for sale. In Hindsight, maybe I should have started with that question first. A couple of the books are about the founder, the late master. His background and philosophy. Basically how ChoZenji came to be as it is. One of the books is a recent publication. He also shows me a couple of smaller older books. He suggests if you are interested in purchasing I would recommend these two. I thanked him and asked if it was cash only or could I charge it? Charging was ok, I am told.

I next asked about making a donation, I saw envelopes. I was told where to do it. Donations were not something that they pushed on people. The person had to want to make it enough that they asked about to do it. Ohhh, different from other places. Ok, Thanks. Or maybe this would have been a good starting place first. Oh well.

I made the arrangement and purchase via his “girlfriend” I believe she is, from watching how she serves him lunch, maybe, maybe not, but I got that vibe. She is the first person I was dealing with when I was arranging to visit and did my orientation and gave me the tour. She was nice enough I thought at the time. Even though she would not let me join right into the Zazen when I arrive, therefore wasting a day. She was fairly pleasant and professional.

I went back to the hotel afterward not feeling pleased with the whole exchange. Feeling like this guy has an attitude. Not extreme, but it is there. I told my wife she thought it was the typical White vs Black attitude he had, that many have. He was being hateful. I was not so sure about that. Attitude yes, but racial, not so sure. More of a, I know it all, I am in power type of attitude.

The more I thought about it the more I was irked about it, and not just him, but the sense I felt there. Having traveled from Japan to experience the center I felt they should be a bit more accommodating. I asked to attend a Zazen session on my first day. I said I had the experience,  I could follow along fairly easy. But was told no! I had to wait until the proper orientation class. In which it took all of 15 min or less for her to explain things and was the only one attending the intro class. Therefore causing, me to waste a whole day of the trip and miss a class I wanted. Now this, with the denial of grounds use, so I would not have to spend hours traveling back and forth to the dojo. Hmmm. Not really helpful folks, are they.  I thought more and got more irked, however also came the thought. Why should it be all about you (me) why should I get special treatment, just because I traveled a long way? That was an ego minded thought. One thing came to mind often during this thought process was something I was told in the beginning ” we here are more in the Japanese tradition than Hawaiian tradition.” Also recalling something I read about they do not encourage just casual visitors or something like that.

“we discourage tourists and recreational visitors from attending zazen or class.”

Just because I did not consider myself a recreational visitor, does not mean the same to them.

With that thought came the ahhh moment! Hawaiian style is laid back, more flexible. Japanese are not flexible, the rule, the way is the way. It can not be changed! Although they are doing just that with their Kyudo, Tai Chi, junk food treats and meals. It is still their way, their “DO“! What an ego, I had to make things about me, I am nothing, but a passing visitor to their home, center, Way ( Do ). Ok, my bad…

Once that clicked in place. I was able to let the negative thoughts go…mostly. When I told my wife that she said ahh yes, he is not being mean he is following the Japanese way. He is in charge and has to follow the rules.

Still though…a bit of compassion and consideration goes a long ways…Amituofo

Next off to Hsu Yun Chan Buddhist temple…

 

Return to Paradise…getting real on day three


Return to Paradise…getting real on day three

I killed time on the third day. Really do not even recall what I did, besides sleep, maybe a little shopping. Ahh we/ I move to another hotel where we would stay the rest of the trip. We had a nice view this time. Part view of the ocean overlooking the marina an park, plus the city. The marina /ocean view made me nostalgic for my Waterworld days. Sigh. I have a friend who lives here in Hawaii and has a sailing business, the boat I believe is docked in this marina. However, just like several of the other bad timing bummers with this trip, he is on vacation in Greece! So no boat ride for me. Sigh, oh well. More to roll with.
So back to ChoZenji for the second day. I made the trip there with no problem. I did not arrive as early but still within good time. This time I sat in the community room with a few other before class and got to speak briefly with a few people there. I was told I could join the class session if I wanted to after the sitting. It was called Zen and Aloha. I did not really know what it was about, but it was not something I had originally planned on attending. However, since I had my whole plan disrupted, I figured ok why not join and experience what the universe was giving me. Then it was time to do Zazen. I did my entry as I should and took a seat. I did have a little help with something or another by an older local man. Older as in about my age and experienced there at the Zen Center. Then we sat. I received a bit of straightening shortly after sitting, but not like the first time. It was not as bad this time, the long sit. However, it was going to be a long session. I was told beforehand, the session would be the standard 45 min, then some breathing drills, then another sitting session! Then whatever the class session stuff was. I was not really looking forward to 1.5 hr Zazen but, it was training so I ready my mind to deal with it! 
After the first sitting, we walked around, not slowly and mindfully like with the Soto group I practiced with before. This time starting slowly then speeding up and staying close-ranked. It was sort of weird I thought. However, I went with it. I found out later from the older guy, named Les, this is the Rinzai way. Also changing direction. Start slow for those whose legs are not quite there yet. Then the speed up close file.  followed by another 45 min sitting. Legs hurt, but not too bad. I could cope. 
One surprise about this sitting was as we started, someone started playing Shakuhachi. Wow, I had seen this on the floor earlier in the community room, but I not inquire about it. It was petty good playing. It was not a tune I had heard and did not sound quite like an Honkyoku. It went on for the full 45 min we sat. I figured it was something else made up by the Shakuhachi master there, or the person playing was improvising. It was pleasant to listen to that and do Zazen. I asked the young head priest later as I was leaving if that was him. Yes he said, I gave him the thumbs up.
Next started the class, we did some seated breathing drills, some with making vowels sounds. Basically while seated we raised one hand then the other in a half circle. Sometimes silent, sometimes with making vowel sounds, or a hmmmm. Totally unlike any Chi Gong, I had experienced. I did not really feel anything other than a little weird. Not from being self-conscious about the drill, but that felt no Chi change.

Next, we stood in a circle held hands and did some Hawaiian call and response chanting. After that we sat and did introductions around, who was who, was who, your name, where do you consider yourself from, and why are you here. That was sort of interesting, where do you consider yourself from, sort of like what was your face before you were born type of question when you thought about it. After I did my part in the circle sharing we did some movement drills, is the best way to describe it. Moving around the room in a line, not in a line, avoiding someone else moving around the room with their eyes closed and try not to hit them. It was explained as a drill in awareness. Like moving through your life, trying to get somewhere, but needing to avoid some random item, issue, person, a thing. Needing to be aware of it and that it is coming, but continue to move forward.

The last section of the class the leader asked about who wanted to do some Tai Chi or do some chanting. I wanted the Tai Chi, but the group wanted the chanting. So I remained quiet and went with the flow to learn, experience something new and different. I have never been big of chanting. Maybe to self-conscious, weird for a person who sings in a band. Anyway, we sat in a circle. We were given a book of chants. A bit was discussed about the nature of the chant. It was not about the words, in some cases, the words have been lost. It is about the sound, the vibe. The body as a sound chamber. The same as what is being done playing Shakuhachi as SuiZen. It is not the music it is the sound, the vibe.
We chatted for a while with the leader banging the fish for the timing. It was interesting, more so now that I am thinking back on it.
We ended the session with another Hawaiian hand-holding group call and answer chant.

The class session name “Zen and Aloha Spirit” makes sense now. It was not what I was looking for, but I got something out of it. I learned something, which was part of the point of going to this Hawaiian pilgrimage.

“Sometimes times one learns what they need, not want they want.”…Brown Buddha

…Amituofo

 

Return to Paradise…the Pilgrimage so far


Return to Paradise…the pilgrimage so far

 
Alohaaaa. Made it back to the islands. It was a loooonnnnngg trip. Yuk! The first day was miserable! 8 hour flight. That was not so bad, tiring, but smooth and faster than planned. We had a good tail wind I am guessing. We arrived 1.5 hours ahead of time, so really only 7 plus hours of flight. Next off to the hotel. The shuttle was way more expensive than planned or told in the guide book! Once at the hotel at 8:00am we had to wait until 3:00pm to check in. Yuk yuk yuk! We went to IHOP for breakfast! Another price shock!! Breakfast at IHOP use to be fairly cheap, maybe still is on the mainland. Not, not, not in Hawaii! More pricing shock! I was also surprised, hmmm forgot how fat Americans can be! Most of those in IHOP were as big as the native Hawaiians and Samoans here! Wow!
 
Back to the hotel afterward to sit in the lobby for the rest of the day! I was not in a good mood! Cranky! We had left our bags at the check-in in the parking lot. I had no books, no iPad, no internet! I just sat! Not the Zazen type of just sitting. I did not use the time wisely. I should have just went into a Zanzen state of mind. That would have been wiser than the irked just sitting state. Oh well… I did manage to nap a bit. I did not want to walk around the area, we were in tourist land, and I had no interest, so I just sat, breathed, sat, settled, breathed… not a happy camper. Finally decided even if it was a hassle to do for the people at the storage. I would get my hand carry bag, with my books, I could at least read. I got my bag with no hassle for them or me, and when I returned to the lobby, the room was ready! 2:00 pm …Sigh.
 
The room was ok, it was a free room due to the points my wife had, so could not complain. Noisy street view. However, free is free! Only there for two days so….oh well, roll with it. We Settled in.
 
Finally ChoZenji 
 
The next day after chilling most of the day. I located how I was to get to ChoZenji and took the bus. It was to be an over an hour ride by bus. It was different riding the bus with the locals, all kinds, all kinds, imported and domestic! Some interesting, some scary looking. Public Trans people are the same all over the world. I rode to the end of the line with the bus on the route I had. Then I had to walk about 15 min into a valley to get to the ChoZenji temple. I was early.
 
The person I had been in communication with came out to meet me. She had me fill out some form and was told I could just walk around and hang out for a while. She said she would change and come out to find me. I was told a little about the location and the small hill which was sort of the center of the grounds of two acres. It was deemed a power spot by local spiritualists!
 
I walked a bit up the hill to feel the vibe and take in the view. I took a few pictures and looked at a few of the statues. My guide came shortly and she took me around the grounds and filled me in on the history of the place and the founders. It was impressive the backgrounds of them. I was shown the shrines, the house built for former Abbot, told the story of the peace bell, and the Chinese fat monk statue. Then I was taken to a small meditation building. I was surprised I was the only one. I was told the formalities of their style of meditation. We chatted a bit then did meditation. I was surprised when she stopped us, as I was expecting 45 min but we stopped early, really only about 15 min. I was told we would now go to the main hall and join the group there. Ohhh I thought!
 
Over to the main hall, they were just finishing the setup. There were about 15 people, myself and another woman were new. The other woman said this was her second time, I heard her say when we were getting the lineup to enter the hall. She did not want to be first in line. So then we entered, bowed and seated ourselves with the formalities.
 
My meditation is usually done with eyes open, this was done with eyes partly opened. I was told so to be aware of one’s surroundings but still not be attached to them. Not sitting facing the wall, but still the half-closed eyes sitting in a square in front of a small Altar and the leader of the session.
The room grew dark as time passed, the wind blew, it was “interesting”, aware, not attached, alert, not attached. Then the lead person came around. My guide bent over and receive the stick smack. Hmmm I disliked that, but figured unless I asked I would not get hit. I was told later another time and session that it could be a choice or not. When it was not it should be viewed as an act of compassion for various reasons. The lead came in front of me, then walked behind me, then back in front of me. He adjusted my position, placed the stick behind me for alignment, adjust me more, then left. I was now much straighter, and not comfortable, but correct. So I stayed still. I was told earlier once in a position they do not move. That is part of the training. Very Japanese. In the Chinese style, if you need to adjust yourself one does so, but in a manner not to disturb the others. So I forced myself to be still, go beyond the pain, discomfort, whatever. I knew that stuff already. Ignore the itch, the loss of feeling in legs, pain in the back…become one with stillness.
It was interesting to sit with eyes open, yet lose sight of anything, watching it fade into nothingness, and snap back when I thought of it. The wind blew, the building spoke with the wind, the trees joined the song, as the rain fell. Then finally the bell, the clappers sounded and it was over. I made it. For me, it was an hour sitting, the other 45 min added to the first 15 at the other smaller Zendo. I was not sure if my leg would allow me to stand. I did so without falling, a success. I notice another person limp as we returned the mats to the stacking place.
 
The group readied the area for the Kendo class. I would not be allowed to join any classes until after my second meditation session. I was asked when I wanted to return. I said I would return tomorrow and stepped out into the night.
 
I walked back down the hill to the bus stop. It was dark and quiet. After a while, a woman comes and sits on the bench with me. She speaks, hello and then goes into her own world. I could hear her talking to herself as she wrote on a piece of paper. Hmmmm. Another one who talks to herself aloud I thought. Jheeze. She talks and writes…I ignore her.
Then it starts raining again. Oh crap, oh well. I think nothing I can do about this, other than get wet. There was a big tree across the street but no leaves hardly. The woman opens an umbrella from somewhere and slides over next to me so I am covered also. The Aloha spirit! I thank her, after a moment she says you can hold it, so I did and she returns to writing and talking. Now I can see what she is writing, it is not something readable. It was also all over the place, sideways, between lines. Totally weird! I thought hmmm oh well. I also notice that the umbrella is falling apart, spokes are broken in places. Hmmmm, oh well, just be alert, I thought. The rain stopped after a while and the bus arrived. She discarded the umbrella and boarded the bus with me and took a seat.
 
The bus, for the most part, was empty. One other person who was chatting with the driver a regular local. I made it to my stop and I got off the bus, as did the umbrella woman. We both were transferring, but she went across the street to take another bus. I waited on the opposite side since I was going in another direction.
I found my bus stop and waited. Another woman I had passed while looking for the stop was there. She was dressed lightly. She did not look so homeless like the last woman, but still for sure not uptown. She wore a dress/skirt and a shoulderless top. The wind picks up and the rain starts again. This time, we are under a covered bus stop. Still, with the wind, we felt the rain. After a short while, another woman comes up. This one is dressed casual “normal”. The wind picks up and so does the rain. The woman in the light dress reacts to the wind and rain, the new woman, who has an umbrella, looks at me and figures out we are not together and holds the umbrella in front of the other woman to shield her somewhat from the elements. She thanks her and says, it was nice when I left the house!
 
About 10 minutes later the bus arrives and we all board and ride off into the night to our different destinations. Ships passing in the night…on the same sea but different courses…Amituofo
 
 
 
Next return to ChoZenji, “the adventure” day three.
 

Return to Paradise…the adventure begins


Return to Paradise….the adventure begins

 
My wife, it is her thing to set up cheap trips. We are heading to Hawaii now. It has been over 10 years since my last visit there. This time for me I had no interest in doing sight seeing. Having lived there for a while and visited afterward a couple of times, I have zero interest in sightseeing. This time for me it is all about training. Well at least 95%.
 
My last visit I wanted to visit the Hawaiian Kyudokai group. However at that time, they were no longer functioning. So no go! There was also a place called Chozenji. It is a Zen center. I called and spoke with someone about shooting, and doing some Zazen. I could not arrange it. I do not recall why, but it was a no! 
 
This time, the Hawaiian Kyudokai is back in operation. I finally after a long long time of tying to get in touch with someone, it was arranged for me to visit and shoot. I was hoping to get some help from a senior instructor on my shooting, in English. To see if I was missing anything. So it was arranged and set for me to visit…however…more the however later.
 
I was also able to contact ChoZenji successfully and make arrangement to visit. Chozenji has classes in Kyudo, ceramics, Taichi, Zazen, kendo, Aikido, Chado, and some other misc arts, and Zen training. Another, plus for the visit to ChoZen the archery instructor is also a Shakuhachi teacher, yeah, how cool is that? Heavenly training in Paradise…however…
 
There Is always usually a however. A yin to a yang.
 
Another thing, I was able to sort of arrange. My Kung fu sempai, with the Tai Chi Mantis federation his father was one of the seniors with the late grandmaster of the system. He had a school In Honolulu. There are still students there training on weekends in the park. My Sempai gave me the location, which is somewhat near where we are staying. So I can go train with them on the weekend, way cool!…no however!
 
Lastly, another friend runs a sailing school. He knows I am coming and said he would take me out on his boat! Another coolness. I will finally get to sail in Hawaii…however , yup another one 🙂
 
The however in this is my sailing friend is in Greece on vacation, maybe he will be back before we leave, maybe not!
 
The ChoZenji visit. Was arranged, thee are three howevers here. One they do western archery and call it Zen archery. They still o Kyudo archery but not all the time. I do not know when that happens. I asked about if they do real Kyudo, o was told they do both. That the end is the same, or something like that, the function is the same or something, hmmmm. My reply was hmm ok thanks. I do not know who it was that was telling me this. I do not think it was the instructor. Another however is the Tai Chi that they do, is not a standard Tai Chi. It is a 10 movement, not even the standard yang 24, something came up with by maybe the founder of the cente, who was supposed to be a high level player in many Martial Arts. I thought, well there is always something to learn, I will attend and roll with and open mind to learn something. The final however is, since my time is short I wanted to get into the center and busy asap. I will be arriving in town in the morning, the first session is not until evening. I figure great I can attend. Their prerequisite for attending any class is two 45 minute sessions. Not a problem, so I thought. There is a Zazen at 6:00pm the day we arrive. However I was told I could not attend, I needed to go to the introduction to Zazen class first. When I first contacted them I told them I was an experienced practitioner and also from the Rinzai linage. I was told I HAD to attend the intro to Zazen class. Sigh, that would not be until Tues, we arrive on Monday. So that is one day in the hole. I would miss the Taijiquan class on Monday. The Kendo class on Tues I would be in time for I really did not have that much interest. I can learn a few basics while in the islands, but I have no desire to continue once back in Japan. Even if I would be able to learn the principles, and use elsewhere. In a beginning class there are no real principals just very basics, stance, holding, etc. so really not that much of interest. Other than putting in the Zazen time, the day would be nothing of interest or new. Oh well…roll with it. Perhaps once I am there and go through their mandatory sitting, I can work out some kind of arrangement to at least practice, train on my own on the grounds for my stay. I will need to leave it up to the “Force” to provide the way.
 
The other “however”. The Hawaiian Kyudokai group had a scheduled special training class, session for beginners. They were unsure how many would show up fo part 2, the day I was attending. I could still attend and was welcome, I was told, but I would be limited to Makiwara shooting. Sigh, ok, better than nothing. I would get to meet the group and at least practice on my own…in effect roll with it.
 
The one last thing on my agenda for the visit was to visit, my linage home temple, where the sect first started in the States. I asked my abbot if there was still someone there I could see, or visit, or something I should see or visit. My Abbot passed away suddenly before I could get an answer. Sigh. So my plan for that was changed. I will still go visit the temple, pray and burn incense for my Abbot and my teacher from the linage who also passed away , maybe last year, I think it was. Whilst at it I will ask if I could speak with someone higher up than jut a regular monk and inform him of the passings and please pray for them. So rolling with it and making the best from what I was dealt. Yeah, pretty much the Cha’n way, and all we can do, under all circumstances. In sailing term, we can not control the wind, we can only adjust our sails…this is how we move forward with life…
 
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So I am on the plane now, the adventure begins.
 
Amitoufo.
 
 

mourning and the lost of greatness

There are not many people in your life or have come into your life that you can say made a big difference in the course of it, for good. That can stand out. Also not just your life but in the lives of many. Usually, in my case at least it is an older person. An Uncle, teacher, coach. Rarely is it a peer. Rarely does one think of any of their hanging out buds as great people.  I do not mean great as far as a cool friend, I mean great as to humanity. It is rare to know someone who has helped change many lives positively.

 

I had the honor and blessing of knowing one such man. He recently passed away. A shocking wakeup to impermanence. I have been reading over the posts to his FB pages and I am continually touched by the remembrances from his students and friends.  His name was Steven Baugh (Da Shi ChuanSheng). We trained Northern Shaolin Tai Chi Praying Mantis together since the ’70s. Even though I was his technically elder brother, I held great respect for him as did everyone. I watched him develop his art through the years and expand beyond just the several styles of martial aspects of study. He returned to the basic roots of Spiritual Shaolin and studied deeply the spiritual side of Chinese Budo. He studied and graduated as a priest from the Hsu Yun Chan Buddhist temple in Hawaii and afterward founded the Lohan Buddhist templeSpiritual and cultural center in Las Vegas. He was already schooled in Taoism and Native American spiritual practices. Being part Native American he had inside access to that training path.

His past, training, studies, and heart gave him insight and connection to the minority community, which in many cases is overlooked when spiritual teachers are going public in Mainstream America. He told me once his teacher told him to go back to the mainland from Hawaii and teach because he was able to reach out to a large variety of people. If one saw his school, students and temple members, one could see this right off.

Once I moved to Japan, I had little thought I would see him again. I found out later that we had one of the same Chan teachers, and she held him as one of her favorites. Saying she had little to teach him as he was already deeply knowledgable. I found out he was coming to Osaka as a treat from one of his student’s who’s wife is from Japan. We arranged to meet up, and that marked a serious changed in my Chan path even after over 10 yrs of study and later became ordained through him in the Buddhist Order of Hsu Yun. 

For the past three days since his passing, I have been usually sensitive and mournful. It took me some thought to figure out it had to do with not just losing a friend, kung fu brother, but my abbot. I received direct dharma transmission from him. That gave us a different, more Spiritually Psychic connection, I am guessing.  I suffered a grave sense of loss at times over the 3 days. I made a pilgrimage to a local Buddhist/Shinto temple complex yesterday. I prayed at each of the Statues, burnt incense, and played Tamuke ( a Komuso offering song for the departed ), tearing up partway into the song unable to finish. However, it was enough. I was told by my Shakuhachi Sensei it is not important to play the whole song in this type of case. I recalled my first really public playing was as a “thank you” offering at the temple after my ordination.

This post this time is about something, someone more important than me. My Abbot, my brother, my friend ( 35 yrs + ). May you have completed all cycles and now be free of suffering.

Most who chance to read this, will not know who he was or will it matter. However, it matters to me in some small way I can honor him and ease some of my sadness with this post.
…Amituofo

 

“Koten-shakuhachi-kenkyuu-kai”

“Koten-shakuhachi-kenkyuu-kai”

Society for the Study of Classical Shakuhachi

 

We had our monthly meeting a few days ago. The day before my return to Shitennoji to play. So it was another good chance to practice in front of serious ears.

Today we were supposed to have a guest. A student of Oliver, a sempai to me of course. He is a college prof and a writer. You can read his blog/webpage here on Komuso, shakuhachi,  Ok,  so his student from China who is visiting in Japan was going to be there. Hopefully, she would bring her Chinese Koto and play.

I was coming for sure that day. I came from another part of town than usual, I wanted to attend a Buddhist meetup I had been pushing off for a long time. A spent a lot of lost time that morning searching for the location. However, all of that is another story. I arrived at the Shaku group meeting a little later than planned but not enough to have missed a lot. I needed to pick up food to bring and grab something to eat then.

I slipped in and joined in the song that was upcoming on the agenda. A short while later another elder sempai bows his way in. We continue and also repeat Cho Shi together once more.

The way is made around the table for everyone to play a solo piece. I did Tamuki as a test for the Komuso offering event at Shitennoji. ( FYI: that whole story is on the Komuso blog). It went over ok, no one gave up any corrections except do not move the flute around so much. ( I was trying to find the sweet spot). The correction I was given last time I got the ok nod from another sempai when I asked him it was, ok? So ok, past that. I am feeling better about the performance on Sunday.

The visitor is up. She says she will not play shakuhachi but will play her Koto for the group. Perfect! we all some questions about the Koto as she was tuning. We all looked it over from all angles.

When she played it was heavenly. We all loved it. It was suggested that since I was the musician that she and I do a song together. If there was the time I would have liked that, however, I was feeling a bit shy about that at the moment as was she, so neither of us stepped to make it happen. Thinking back now I should have tried. It was not like a big deal to sound bad. Hahahah. It would have been all in fun. Sometimes being humble and shy is a fun blocker. I still need to step out of my comfort zone more, yet another personal challenge to work on….Amitoufo

 

 

…and so we are here.

Life can get in the way of blogging. LIfe rules. Life goes on, blog or not. You can not blog without life. I am in the deep post stage of healing now from the operation. No side effects I can see. ( hehehe) . I am so glad it is over. My eyes sight is still recovering, I am told about a month for vision to stabilize. Even I am so much better off now, visually speaking.

…In the world of bows and arrows.

I will get back to Kyudo training now, I can see clearer. Visually and mentally. I think I should make some progress now. I do not expect a lot of change because of the vision thing, but because I am understanding more about alignment, holding it, without tension. The other “seeing”. I can go back to shooting now, the weather is warming up a little. Summer shinza will be here soon. I will pass this year! I have signed up for a Tai Kai at Osakajo park dojo. It is the end of the month. It has been a while since I have gone to a Tai Kai outside of Kishiwada. I have not felt confident. I am better now and improving. This will help strengthen dojo ties, focus, form and be fun…I hope 🙂

…In the world of Sounds and beats.

I have been working on a couple of musical projects. Oh, wait did I tell you the drummer with the Sieki band quite. Not a big deal, I did not think he was that good. Ok in a limited scope. The leader has found a new guy. I do not know if he is long-term or filling in for the spring Shows. I hope he is a good player.

Then there is my stuff. I have a Komuso Shakuhachi memorial coming up this weekend. This is the one had to play at in front of the masters last year. to have my sponsorship announced. Now I am back,  I have been putting some extra time as possible. Trying to memorize the song. Having eye surgery and no job kept me time free to get some practice in. I decided this year to go with the long length Shakuhachi. At first the 2.0 now I am thinking the 2.5. The sound is much richer and fitting a shrine performance offering. Also, I seemed to have improved because now I can hit the higher notes. Sensei said to me today at my lesson. If you miss a note, let it go as part of the performance. In other words, It is done, let it go. Make the wind part of the note. In short, roll with it.
That’s something that every musician learns. Life is Zen, Music is Zen.

Life (Sound) is impermanence. When poo happens ( bad notes), learn and move on. The moment like the sound has faded away…Amitoufo

Ok, yeah I am doing the long flute. Another point today in class, I was shown more than told the answer to a question I did not ask but had been thinking about. Did I have to play the way it was written? No, I play what I feel, that is the point of an offering. I was corrected on a way I played a line at the Shakuhachi Club when I was giving a demo of me playing for the temple. Sensei gave me an example of playing the song as an offering in the temple. Much more in keeping with my thought, although much much better! LoL! So my main key to mind is playing to enjoy it, the feeling is more important than the notes!

 

The other project also involves the Shaku, but in a completely different setting. I had not been to the Ozaki Jazz society session in a while. I wanted to make a point of going this month. I organized 4 songs, to play. with whoever wanted to join. I also arranged for a friend who plays Mandolin to attend and another woman friend who attends regularly was going to be there. She agreed to play piano for me. I like her playing. So she and the mandolin player knew in advance what I wanted music wise. So I felt pretty set. The rest of the players could be sorted out on their parts as they felt them.

When I arrived it was quite crowded, I was surprised. Many faces I did not know. I greeted all I knew when I came in and had a seat near my friend. The session was lively and interesting. It was my turn…

I thought I had things all worked out about the sound. The last time I played the Shaku with a band I could not hear it well. I brought along a small amp and a clip-on mic holder, this time. I thought I was set. I explained things to the drummer and keyboardist how I wanted the beat and tempo. Turns out they both speak English, the keyboardist I knew did. I counted off and we started. slowly fleeing the groove. I got organized and stepped-up up to the mic for a note check. BLahhhh. Weak !  Weak! sadly weak I signaled to the MC for another mic to switch with the one I brought. We did a quick swap to the house system, I could sort of hear. I had to make do and just roll with it. I could not get into the feeling I wanted because I could barely hear myself, I am flat or off, or what. I suffered to hear. I could hear a few notes and I could hear some shouts of approval from the crowd. so I played on trying to hear by feeling, by sense. We made the timing change in the song it was a tricky part. The drummer blew it but we got past it and went into the next groove. I kept my Shakuhachi playing low-key, like background strings. Once in a while, I throw in a few solo bars notes. We made the tempo switch again this time the drummer really blew it, I was able to reset the time and get it back up to beat. Listening back on the video, it is not too bad. Some parts were even good. The attendees seemed to love it!

I was only able to do the one Shakuhachi song, then another song on the Bass, two total, because of the size of the attendees. No matter I found out what I needed to know, it was an experiment. It went well, it is no longer a question if I can play well enough or if I can pull it off mixing the sounds. The next issue is being heard. I mentioned that also to Sensei today. He told me the correct position to place a Mic and the best angle. I was way off-putting it at the end, it needs to be next to the mouth like a metal flute. Duh!!! ok, Now I know so it was a successful mission. Next, I will take it to the Blues club for a run. If the sound issue is solved I should be good to go. If you want to hear the cut-instrumental cut of the song, you can click here.

next return to the temple

 

 

Sessions…

Session by the Sea

Sessions are kind of like sex. It is usually good, but sometimes it is great! Depends on your partners. My last visit to Snafkin, I was invited to attend another session there on the 18th, which was yesterday! I was not sure who would be there. However, I was looking forward to it as there were going to be at least a couple of people I knew and played with before.
I had contacted another local musician, a mandolin player I meet at a session at Chicago Rock. We are in the same age group and he lives nearby. I played with him at Chicago Rick a couple of times and we rode the same twin home once before. I invited him to attend the session, but I was n to sure if he would. The keyboard player I have worked with and is perhaps one of my favorite players was scheduled to be there, but he said he was not sure about the time or appearance because of work. I was expecting the percussionist I have played with several times to be there, so I was told. 
The day arrives and I make ready to attend. I had three songs picked out to do. Really just two but this was just in case. I had no idea how long I was to play. I was even ready if I had to do with just myself and drums. 
It was nice it was not super cold, even though I was dressed for it! The temps were mild. I made my way to the cafe! It was not as crowded as I expected. Also, several people, I was expecting to be there were not. But it was ok. I arrived and said my hellos, I was pleased to see the mandolin player there. I was expecting him to be there to do a free Jam, but he said he was there for me! Cool, I thought. I also saw the keyboard player there already. However no percussionist. Ok, no big deal, we have played San-percussion before. 
There were a couple of acts before me. I sat, watched and grooved with them. One of them was another friend. I played with her a couple of times, she and played shamisen with me other times. Tonight she just had her keyboardist and sang. 
Soon I was up. I gathered my players, piano, and mandolin. It took a few minutes to figure out what we were doing and get things setup mic wise. The keyboardist was a little unsure about a couple of songs I spoke of, so I chose to stick with some simple blues. I also found out he remembered how I did Summertime and he played it in the right key for the Shakuhachi I brought along.
The first song was my version of “I hear my train coming,” by Hendrix. It is sort of a Jazzy funk blues. I have done it several places now. It fits me, and the people always seem to like it. It works with any group/band I am finding. Next up was “Summertime”. I played Shakuhachi on this and no bass, which I played in the first song. People are always surprised to see me bring out the Shakuhachi. Not something one expects to see for a Blues player. I was more prepared on what to expect this time as far as mixing the Shakuhachi. So that went ok. Another thing that had come to me when practicing. Is that I should be playing now, as when doing Honkyoku, it focuses on the notes, not how many I played, or how fast a run, but the feeling, the quality, tone, character of the notes. It made the playing better. Also made me less excited and able to blow more evenly instead of losing notes to just air sound. Even though that still happened at times. Overall it went very well. That was really my biggest concern is how will my Shakuhachi playing sound. It is still new to me in this venue. When we finished, we got a good response. From the band and the audience. 
My last song was a simple blues, but in a way sort of complex because of the rhythm change. Usually, I try to explain that to the players, but tonight I did not. I was going to keep it simple and just feel our way through it. Piano, Bass, harp, mandolin, and a guitarist joined us. We did the final song, almost perfect the tempo change came naturally and we flowed right into it. It was great. Again we were all impressed and pleased with the outcome. My only regret is that I did not record. I had thought about it, but after speaking with my friend about taking pictures and she wanted to use the camera, it slipped my mind to turn on my recorder on my smartphone. Oh well. It was sort of like a Zen thing, it was only to be experienced at that moment.
Afterward, we hung out a little, before my friend the Mandolin player and I walked to the train for our trip home. He gave me a lead on another good place to go fo Blues sessions, that was fairly local which also had good players to attend. Nice! I will be checking it out. Also, I am thinking more now about adding this mandolin to my personal group idea. I had thought of mandolin being more of a country sound, but this guy worked it with the blues. People at the club were impressed with his playing. I was even more impressed than when I heard him before. In this setting it was nice, nothing was too loud, so it all could be joyed, unlike at Chicago Rock where everything is so loud.
So yeah, like sex with the right partner, the session was great, a learning experience and a blessing…Amitoufo

Session @ the Rock

I had a gig a week earlier at Chicago Rock. I was part of a trio that the Chicago Rock Master had assembled. We had no rehearsal and no song list before the show. We three had played together once before again with no rehearsal just did it off the cuff. The other time we had Jo-San the keyboard player, this time no. Still even though very very loud it went over well. I was told to turn up my bass. That is really different! I neede to turn it up so it could be heard in the sitting room. In Chicago Rock, one small room is where the band is, the stage of sorts. The other room is where the people sit and drink. I had to turn up so loud it sounded distorted coming out of the amp. I did some recording that night, but because the Bass was so loud and the smartphone mic was not able to handle it, it sounded crappy when I played back. Generally, we, the band sounded pretty good, but the distortion was BAD on the recording. Which is really too bad a couple of songs we actually sounded good on! I am not sure what will happen with this group if I will play again? Nothing was said and I left pretty soon after we finished. I did not even stick around to see if there was enough income money to pay us. I chatted with a woman singer, for a short time who spoke some English. Then I took off for home. It was a good night.

Session Izumisano

Ok last on the music train. My friend the Percussionist, contacted me the other day. The day before the Snafkin session asking me to come by a show he was doing nearby my home. Usually, when I am invited it is to play something. however, nothing was said about me playing, So I was not sure. I was thinking maybe he just wants some body support at the show. However, I thought hmm ok, maybe I should bring my Shakuhachi just in case I am asked to do a ( one) song.


I went to the showplace and small little Cafe. Near the Indian restaurant, I go to and have been meaning to go by lately. The Manager saw me as I was walking by. we talk a little. I said I would be back if he was not closed. For you no worries he said. So off I went to find the Cafe. Without the smartphone. I would have never found it! Ok, I locate the cafe and someone comes out and shows me into a seat. It is a very small place. One big round table and several chairs around. I am greeting by my friend who is playing. I take a seat and settle in to watch. After about 3 songs, they are finished, I am thinking they are going on break. Nope, I am asked to do a song. EhhhH!!!!!! what? really?! hmmm. ok, I take a guitar and give some thought on what to play. I start slowly as I am not warmed up. It went ok. I changed somethings as I went along because I did not know all the Spanish words and did not have my harps. So it was just singing and guitar. Next up, a guy comes out and takes another guitar and starts playing off to the side but right next to me. I am thinking ok, I am done. However, I am asked to another song. Hmmmm ok. I say since there is someone with a guitar, I will play my shakuhachi. I give the guitarist some cords, tempo, and beat. We fiddle with it a little bit then start. It is all improvised for me, as what I was expecting to hear and what was being played were different. So I just listened and went with what was being played, not with what I wanted to hear. Again more on the tones and spirit rather than technique. I rolled with it and just freestyled, again feeling like I am doing musical push hands. Listen, Stick and flow with the energy/notes. It was good practice for me. The more I play, the better I will get, everything is practice, everything is Cha’n. Once again everyone was surprised when I whipped out the shakuhachi. LoL! Then one last song I took up the guitar again. I had been trying to avoid doing a blues but it was that time now. My first song was Besame Mucho, then the medium speed instrumental Shakuhachi freestyle. Now, something a little funky yet simple. It felt to me a little empty without my Harps but …yup I rolled with it. By now my fingers had warmed up and I was feeling more comfortable on the guitar now. It was like driving a new route not quite sure where you are, but then recollection kicks in and you are like, oh yeah I am close to home.

Again it went over well. I stopped and the next act to come on. Being mostly unprepared, but always ready, things went over ok. I wish I had known I was expected to perform, I could have prepared better. I watched the next two acts, then it was over. I made ready to leave. After a few chit chats, in Japanese, always scary. I made my way out the door. Outside my friend gave me money for coming!! I was shocked and tried to refuse, but he insisted, after three times I yield. At that point, a friend of his comes over. She is an English teacher so we chat a little before I head off to catch my train. So, new contacts, meetups, got paid, got lunch, it was a good day! I brought dinner home! Amitoufo _/|\_