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…finally Kyudo

Once again, I just killed time in the hotel. A little Tv, and some napping, well, a lot sleeping. I was surprised at how much napping. I think I went out and did a little shopping for some misc stuff. Nothing important at all, it was just a kicking back day. Waiting to go to visit the Hawaii Kyudokai.

Finally, the time came and I set out again on the bus. Bus rides give one the real view of the locals, not the well off, or the very comfortable. The bus has everyday people. The Kyudokai was located in the Soto mission. I am not sure if it was a Soto Zen temple or just what it was, maybe just some kind of school, or academy just named Soto.
Anyway, I found the place with not too much effort. The Kyudo Kai club was meeting in the basement of the community center. When I entered I was approached by a couple of people. It took me a while to explain who I was and who I had spoken too. I dug up the email, Someone named “Ai” via email and an introduction through other Kyudo friends. I was told by the elder there I could change and join the group.

I was told early by the person I had spoken with via email that there was a special second part of a beginners class being held that night. I would not get to shoot the indoor distance range they had set up most likely, but I could use the Makiwara! Ok, I figured it was better than nothing. More so since the shooting at ChoZenji seems unlikely, with the Master out of town and them really doing western archery. So, while I was changing I found out the person I had spoken with was a girl. A very energetic young lady I was told, who arrived while I was changing. When I came out we met. She was Japanese, and very nice, a happy sort of person. We exchanged greetings and I also spoke with another Japanese lady and some guy. People were nice, I was asked by a couple of people if I had shot before. I simply said yes in Japan, I still practice there. Ohh, was their surprise.

Class started we lined up and I was pleased and surprised to find they did a few minutes of meditation before shooting. Ahhh, it was like the old days back shooting with the Shibata group and Rick Beal Sensei’s group. I liked it. Next, there were announcements, I was one of them. A visitor from Japan, would I do a demo? Ehhhhhh! Not expecting that, reluctantly I said ok.

Then more talking and answering questions which were submitted from the newbies. Ai-Chan was a good leader, she explained things well and very down to earth. I found out later she was not a Renshi, which I thought but a Yondan. The only Sensei was the elder I spoke with when entering. He though was not a Renshi with the Federation. So I am not sure where he learned. Ai-Chan I found out later from her learned in Japan, she was only in Hawaii for about 6 years. The same amount of time I had been in Japan. Sort of we traded places We laughed about that later as she gave me a ride back to the hotel.

Ok, so the explaining went on, finally another Japanese woman said to Ai-Chan it was getting late they should start the training…Ai-chan was energetic about talking.

 

However first the seniors there were going to shoot for the new folks, a demo. I was asked to shoot with Ai-Chan. Hmmmm ok. We shot last after the first group of three. I did sadly I thought. Form-wise I was ok, but my first time there… I was fairly off target, also our Tai Kai was not together. It did not matter as it was somewhat casual, and the new folks knew nothing anyway.
After that, they started to train the new people, as it turned out there was so many I did not have a bow to use the Makiwara. I Just sort of missed out, the theme mostly for the trip it seemed.

Having no bow, I just stayed off to the side in front of the mirror and practice with my imaginary Yumi. Watching my shoulders. Feeling my alignment, making the best of the time…yup, rolling with it!

Then the class was over.  A few people who had not earlier came over and asked me questions. Curious about me and Japan and how that happened. Friendly sort of stuff. Like I get in Japan but the reverse. I replied as we cleaned up to close for the night. I changed and meet up with a few of the old members in the parking lot. I was getting a ride to the hotel by Ai-Chan and we all just chatted in the lot. I was invited over for shooting at one of the member’s private dojo on Sunday. Cool, I thought, finally I can get some shooting in. I was not going to get the help with corrections I wanted but,  I would get to hang out and shoot. That was the next best thing.

So finally I was able to return to the hotel feeling pretty good about the trip. So far it had been meh and fairly disappointing. The training at Chozen was not what I had planned, or that interesting, interesting , but not that interesting. So far nothing of what I was hoping for. I would not go back on Friday. There was a Kendo class, which had no real interest in for a one-time thing and another 45 min Zazen. I did not need an Hour plus ride in both directions, to do Zazen, which I could do at the hotel.

So Friday I just spent the day at the hotel.

That evening went out with my wife to a restaurant and did the happy hour thing with her. The PuPu ( small meal, snacks) there was pretty good, we enjoyed those with a drink.

So day 4 and 5 were Pau ( Done/finished in Hawaiian).

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.
 

弓道 – Sometimes you are the bird…

…sometimes you are the statue!

There was a large Kyudo Tai Kai (tournament) this past weekend. There were several dojo attending. It was cold, brrr. I had been out the day before doing Komuso stuff in Nara. I played it smart and after much of the day spent walking, I took a hot bath and went to bed fairly early. I needed to be at the Kyudojo by 8:30 am. This meant getting up at 5:00 am. Zazen, stretch, breakfast, gather my stuff and walk to the train. it was a little over an hour ride. It was also raining and very windy before I left. The rain stopped but the wind did not. that kept up most of the day as did the cold!

I arrived at the dojo in plenty of time. I got changed and went out to see who was there that I had not seen in the changing room. There were maybe 8- 12 of us from Kishiswada. Not a big turn out but ok. we settled in and the header gave instructions. I had no idea what was being said I just figured I would roll with as always.

There was the big group lineup and everyone took a spot with their group. Announcements were made, etc, etc. and we got started. The best shooters went first. I was not in that group. After a bit, I figured out there were maybe 6 rounds for each school. I mostly just hung out, milled about, watched took a few pictures and hung out by the heater, a popular spot for the day.

Finally, it was my turn. I settled myself and got in line. I was in the middle. That was good because I need to see what others are doing, I like those in charge knew that. Ok, we went on the floor. that was smooth. then the shots. Four arrows, I miss three and hit the last. sigh, oh well. At least I got one. I am checking out the hit rate afterward. someone else only got 1, several got only two, even the Kaicho got only one on his turn. So I did not feel so bad. One more group then a lunch break. I went with my group to gather arrows, I knew that much from other Tai Kai it is something one does.

I sat in the changing room for lunch, along with several others. It was warm there, I was not about to go elsewhere. Most of my group ate somewhere else together. Which was fine with me, I was warm, I had a comfortable seat. I was not about to move on my own choice.

lunch was over then another round started. Again I got a middle spot in near the last round. this time I got a big zero hits. I felt bad, not like we as a group were doing all that great but still not even one hit was a poor showing. Hmm, need to rethink about the next shinsa. Not feeling like I will be ready. More training, more waiting.
Once I finished shooting a classmate says something as I was getting ready to go get arrows. I had no idea what she was talking about. I finally figured out I was being told to wait I needed to shoot again for some reason, this time only two arrows. Again another miss. However even though we took out two arrows, we only got to shot one, then we were finished. This was my one really feeling weird moment. I was so lost in thought of hitting my second arrow, that I did not notice no one else had knocked their second arrow, only me. I had to backtrack as everyone else was just standing there in ready position…oops. I have no idea what that was about. I did notice that one of the sensei clapped afterward even though we/I missed. So it was over for the most part. I gather my stuff to leave, hung out by the heater and clapped for my team-mates. Another round for others, then the big lineup. My goal for myself today was to support my school and examine myself. As far as that goes I was successful. As far as hitting, fail! It is interesting the more I try to do well, the worst I get. The desire factor makes a big deal. Like it is said, when you sit to become enlightened you go further away. Shooting for the prize all your skill fails. One needs to sit with no goals, shoot with no care. I did a lot better the day before when just practicing. I was back to 50% hits. I thought I had figured out a major issue I was having …nope. Oh well, back to training, or just shooting for fun. Shooting to Shoot, sitting to sit. no mind, no goals, just sitting, just shooting. Easy to say, hard to do.Amitoufo

up coming training in paradise.

弓道 – The continuing long and winding road…

Long and winding road.

 
Before my eye surgery. I was starting to feel like I was making serious progress. Like things were coming together. With some tweaks here and there, I would ready for June Shinsa. A few days ago a went by the dojo. It was closed for a while due to repairs from the Typhoon. It is now re-opened. I went by, and shoot. Only a couple of people were there. For the most part other than some chit chat, I just got to practice. I did poorly. I worked at a few things, there was a slight betterment. It is not my eyes. I never really thought seriously that was the problem. However, if it did make a bit of difference with focusing. It was in my mind, due to the distraction of not seeing well. I can see clearly now, a bit of unfocus is there, but at my age it is normal. Maybe some to do with my eyes still healing. Anyway. I can see and I still do not hit! Hahahahaha
 

So Thurs I take my tired act to the dojo to practice in front of Watase Sensei, the main guy, my for real sensei. Always watching when I shoot. He is the head of our sector with the Federation although not the highest rank. Yamashita Sensei is the highest that I know of, connected to our school.
Yeah, so I arrive later than I planned. Not a problem. I thought I would just miss Sensei and just practice. Even though I wanted Sensei to check my shooting, at the same time I did not want him to. 
I am walking through the park on the last section before arriving at the dojo, I encounter a classmate, Emi-Chan. We chat a bit. She is testing for Yondan next week. She said had been practicing, there are still a few there practicing, including Watase Sensei, who was bugging her. We laughed. I understood, so it is not just me. He is always watching, correcting. It is good, but still “Urusai” ( bugsome)
Matane, we say as we walk on our ways. I go into the Dojo, greeting some long time no see friends and settle in. Sensei is busy shooting. Part of my task of the day is to restring my bow. The string broke the other day at practice, I didn’t replace it then. I do so today. Go to the side area and settle in for the task. I find out the string I am storing in case one breaks, which I did not have with me the other day. This string is not broken, but close to it, it is frayed. I did to prepare two string today. I have at it. It takes a while to do two strings. The group kept practicing, some left.
I am just about finished. Sensei comes down my side to go to the rear. We chat a bit, he askes about eye is it better now? Can train for the next Shinsa? Hai, Keiko, I say, more training!
 
I notice everyone is making ready to leave. I am asked what mato do I want to shoot? I pick one. I always have trouble with how to say. “I do not care, whatever.” I just now remember a way. Great I will use it next time.
With everyone leaving, I figure I will not change and just wear a dogi and shoot.
I warm up a bit then go out on the floor. Sensei is busy doing something with a wheel barrel going to the back area. I make ready to shoot. From the side o my eye, I can see him in the distance off to the side watching. 🙂 Arigatou sensei.
 
I continued with my shooting, badly for the next three sets of ya. I am feeling discussed with myself, but slowly trying to understand what am I doing so wrong. I make some corrections, thing improve some, bit still suck! Sensei comes over and watches, he tells me several things I am blowing. I thank him and continue to practice. I am back and forth, Makiwara to mato, Mato to Makiwara. Sensei asks me how many times do I come to the dojo, 2 times or 1 time? I say for now one, but I have a Makiwara at home I practice on. He nods.
 
I got a lot of info that day. All in Japanese of course. A lot of it, I did not understand, work for word. However, I understood the points being made. I will work on them hopefully it will bring me back up again, maybe higher.
I decided also to seek some extra help at least once. I recalled the sensei who spoke to me in English back at Kishiwada one time. I thought she was someone else, I found later just who she is, from the person I thought she was. I asked a friend at Sakai Dojo, was there a sensei Named Sato, who spoke English there. Yes. She said, bingo! I said I want to meet with her, I have spoken to her before she invited me to class me to NZ to a seminar. I want to meet with her here and look over my shooting and give me feedback, in English. In case I am missing something in Japanese. My friend says in May that Sato sensei and some other top guy from NZ will be here in May, I could speak with them both. I said great, I will contact you again after my stateside visit.
 
I have made arrangements to study a bit of Kyudo at Chozenji temple in Hawaii, also with the Hawaiian Kyudo Kai on my upcoming visit. I will also get in some Kung Fu practice time with Tai Chi Mantis family. It should be a good training pilgrimage.
That, plus meeting with these Kyudo Sensei In Sakai, and back to serious practice I should pass this summer’s Shinsa. Yosh!

“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

 

 

Aftermath…this n that

 

Aftermath …this n that

It is a little over a week since I had my operation. It is remarkable the difference in the Vision in my left eye. When I compare it to the right now, which was better before than the left, I find it amazing that I was seeing reasonable at all. I do remember seeing a friend a couple of time in the park at not that much distance and also looking for family coming to visit at the train station and not being able to recognize their faces. Just more of an impression that it was them. Also some text on a box in the kitchen across the room I could not read, now I can. So it was a good thing to get the work done. The right eye is coming up next week. I am both looking forward to it and not. Rather I am looking forward to it being over and done with. I am also not so nervous about it since I know fully what to expect. Not really painful, but uncomfortable for a day or so. The drops 4 times a day is a hassle but, better than getting an infection. 
I went to Kyudo the other day the first time since the surgery. It was weird shooting with the glasses on, which I am supposed to wear for protection. A couple of people thought I was just wearing glasses and were surprised to see me wear them. I explained and they went ohhhhh. 
So the big question that was in my mind, does it affect my shooting. For sure I could see better on the left, however, it was not quite clear, as I saw just a bit of a double image or off image since my right is not balanced with my left. It is differently better but just off a bit. In a different way than before.
However, most importantly I could shoot and my hit average was up. Not only up I got more back to back shots. I finished at 60%. I do not credit all that with being able to see better, but with I am getting better at setting up the shot and maintaining how it supposes to be. Meaning my form is better, I believe. I am not going to go all nuts thinking I am making big progress because in the past I thought that way and the next time I shot I was lower. This time I was higher @ 60% than my last which was 50%. So if I can maintain that or increase I will feel, more confident about the Shinsa in June. I really want to pass in June as I feel it would honor Nogami Sensei since that is where it all started for me in Japan. To finally pass my Yondan there would be outstanding! So, I have to ganbarimasu! 
On another front, another item I wanted to do here in Japan was ceramics. I found a high-level sensei before however, he had retired, so that was a dead end. I found there was another ceramics “club” at the community center I was taking Japanese. My wife thought it may be to a beginner class, too housewifey for me. I did not bother going to check it out at all. Today I went there, I got the inspiration from going to the Budo expo to go check out. Not related but there was an Aikido class nearby I thought. I had heard back before there was one nearby, but also the ceramic clas. I had my wife call the center and yes there is a ceramic class and it was on a good day for me to go.
I went by there today and spoke with the sensei and introduce myself. I rode my bike which I was not supposed to do until I was fully healed. So I took some precautions to protect my eyes, and still, get some cardio exercise.

It is a very small group with me it would be 6 total over a couple of days and different times. I looked at some of the students work. Nothing great but some were a few nice pieces. I had taken photos of some of my past work, they were impressed.

I was shown the kiln and things were explained to me. I understood very little of all that was said enough though I felt welcome and could join when I wanted. Also, I could pretty much do whatever project I wanted. Help advice was available if I wanted. It was nice. It was also limited as there were no real wheels in use. Mostly hand building with a small hand turned wheel. However a fair supply of glazes. It made me realize how much I learned when I took the class back in college. Mixing the powders of my own glaze, using wheels, also Hand building, coiling, and slab. I was comfortable with it all. All the work done here would be by hand building, which was ok. That is how I started. I can also do that at home. So yeah, cool. I have a couple of projects in mind, I will not need to rush, so I can really take my time and work as I see fit. I want to make a couple of pieces for my garden and not houseware stuff, like before, bowls, sake containers, the like. I still have my tools which I brought from the states. So I am looking forward to it. Yeah, another something else to do. But hey, I am here to live and enjoyed the best I can with what time is left. So Kyudo, Shakuhachi, Zen training via SuiZen and some contact with my Chan teacher in Taiwan, plus the band, some occasional work, some occasional sailing. A blessed life here in Japan. If I can add some Kung Fu teaching of some type, and training it would all be perfect. But little by little, small steps. For the amount of time I have been here, it is quite a lot. I really should be looking for some more income, but I have spent most of my life chasing that, now is my time to chase my arts, with my lifetime left. With the blessing of the Universe, I should have at least another 10 -15 years left.
I will plan on starting the ceramics in May, after returning from Hawaii. The day and time is perfect and will not interfere with my shakuhachi class or when I am working during the summer back with the silver center. I believe that if I need to miss a day or time I can switch up with another since it is the same sensei running the whole program. 
Next is to find an Aikido or something club/class or even better a place for me to teach and students, that would be wonderful and the icing. I may have a place to teach, maybe. There is a new community center opening just around the corner from us, also a Sempai in the Shakuhachi group is an Abbott of a temple not too far away. Then there would be finding students. I would even give free TaiChi classes to seniors if there was interest as part of spread Buddhist dharma. It is not really about the money, same as teaching Kyudo, it is not the money. In fact, one does not pay for Kyudo instruction. You pay for club membership, space, not the lessons.
The Band.
The band has lost the drummer. Not really a big deal. I did not think he was that good anyway. Not versatile, and zero funk feel. The guitarist is on the search for one. I have spoken with the drummer I played with in the Doc’s band. He really wants something convenient for him and does not want to travel, bit says he wants to play. Also can not practice not after April 7 th, as he is involved with local politics. Hmmm, he is an option if we really cannot find someone for the gigs we have in Last April and early May. Another is to use the current guitarist on drums. I think his beat is better than the former drummer and his guitar work is ok, but not great. With him on drums and our current keyboard player, we could carry on, even sometimes use my dummy machine. My last major band in the states did not have a drummer, we played with an electronic drummer. The one that I have not is more advanced than what we had at that time. Anyway, we’ll see what the universe brings in with the tide…Amitoufo

The eyes have it

…And now for something completely different.
 
My eyesight has been getting bad, not extreme but bad. I have been to the doctors a couple of times and they have verified something is up. My last drivers’ test I barely passed in the states. I have a boat license test coming this year. I did think that not I would pass. Cataracts I was told by one doctor. Another at the local hospital have that but my problem was not that so much there maybe, maybe something else. An old injury. That was news to me. My wife was not satisfied with the verdict from the hospital. This was last year. My boat License needs to be renewed this year. So I wanted to go to get glasses if needed. I was ready to deal with the glasses if needed. Also, I thought maybe it will help with my Kyudo hits.
 
My wife did research and found an eye clinic nearby, with a good, very good reputation from the locals. The thing that is said about government-aided health care is long lines. I have never had a long wait in the five years we have been here. We go in just before my appointment and I am out within an hour or less even with blood tests and the like. This clinic for the first visit one does not need an appt. my wife went in ahead of me and I would come over after my Kyudo class, she would check in then we expected to have a short wait. After she arrived she called me saying there was no wait come as soon as I could. When I arrived we waited about 20 min as people had started coming in.
 
The doctors saw me and ran me through some checks. I was amazed at the high-tech equipment there. Anyway, yes. My main problem was not my eyes so much, but the clouding due to cataracts. The operation would cost about 600.00 (US) per eye. Even with our insurance. The operation was scheduled for the next week. Better to get it done and over with. One eye was set up, the other, if I wanted, could be done two weeks later. Ok, I said. Let’s get it over with. I was somewhat uneasy. I have never had any type of surgery. AT my age that is I guess unusual. I know others who have had major operations, some who have almost died, and some who are dead. Getting old is not for the weak. I dislike medical stuff. So far I have been blessed. I do think though if I had stayed living in the US I would have had some problems by now, due to the western diet.
 
There would be a visit beforehand for checks and explanations of what was going to happen. I came back for that and received drops to start taking three before the operation. Ok, it was set. Things were explained to me by someone who spoke English as my wife was not available to attend. Very nice guy, helpful.
 
Day of the operation, I needed to be there two hours beforehand for pre-stuff. More exam does, etc etc. I was told there was be no pain. No pain so I was not too concerned. My wife was more so than me. On the day of the operation, there were many others there also. I settled in, listened to some Zen podcasts and waited. The operation I was told would take only about 5-10 min. I watched people go into the back and a short while later would return out with big patches on their eye. But none looked stressed. Ok, I thought this may not be too bad as they say. I had been told just what would be done during the procedure. It weirded me out a little, but I stuck with the no pain part. My turn. I go in and I am asked about where what arm was best to put the drip. This is all in Japanese, it took me a little bit to figure out what was being said. I thought oh jheeeh, ok it is on, this is real. Must be some kind of numbing I.V. into my arm. Ok, done, I waited.
 
Ok my turn, I followed the nurse into the back room, there were several techs and a doctor(s). I sat and they set me up. Face mask, covers, shields. I was getting the creeps, but not bad., breath, in breathe out I had been told I would not see the knife or anything but only like a kaleidoscope. It was supposed to be done with ultrasound and then a vacuum after eye lens was moved forward. Ok, it was on. I watched the lights. I was told at one point there would maybe be a small pain. I felt a burn, not bad, but still a burn. That must have been the cut /burn out of the connection to the eye film. Only was for a moment, then other stuff was done I was told there would be no pain. That was true. It was not pleasant and seemed like forever but soon it was over. I was relieved…a lot. Next out to the waiting area. Although there was no real pain I was a bit in trauma. My legs were shaking, not a lot and no one could tell but me. Like I had the chills. I knew I had gripped the chair tightly during the operation a couple of times and told/made myself relax, Zen and Shaolin training. I was asked if I felt ok, did I need to vomit while I was waiting. No, I was ok. I understood then why they said no food a couple of hours before the operation, I guess some people have gotten sick. Yeah I could see that from my shakes. It was more a mental thing than an actual pain thing. I received some more instructions. Shortly later a person came and gave me more drops and some painkillers if I wanted to take later. It was done. I went home and fell asleep for a while. Then there was some pain, not too bad, small. I had dental work before that was worse. I did not take the pain pills. I just rolled with it, after a few hours it passed.
 
I had a reasonable night sleep, after my first nap. I watched some TV and played Shakuhachi before going back to bed. I had another appt. in the morning for a checkup.
 
I was feeling ok the next day. I had no idea if I could see, I had the patch on. I could see just a little from the side but not really see. I wanted to keep my eyes closed because when I moved one they both moved and I could feel it, not comfortable, but not painful.

Back to the clinic. After the patch was removed. I was cleaned and checked, given more drops, asked questions, rechecked. I was asked how my vision was. I had a little difficulty opening my eyes fully but I could do it and I was shocked how clear my sight was on that eye. More drops, waiting, checks. At one point another man spoke with me who just also had the operation the same day as me. I was also good. I was given new drops to take home, protection glasses, and a night shield, more instructions, and my bill. Because we are low income we have another government discount. The same we received when I had my dental work done. Which in the US would have cost me $5-10,000.00. No matter what procedure within a month, my cost would be about $380.00. Pharmacy stuff like drops and glasses where extra but they were only about $15.00 U.S.. My next operation is in two weeks within the month period, so I have no other medical cost for this. With our standard medical it would have come to about $1,200. U.S. there are some good points to being low income in Japan if you can live simple. My U.S. SS income is not counted toward our income support. So to the government here, we live off of my wife’s part-time work and my part-time work.

 
It was a blessing moving here. Not only for my health benefits. but being away from all the hate, madness, and anger that is going on in the States right now. It is all so depressing. I am cutting back, way back on my FB use. It is too much of a drain my spirit, the bickering, attacks, divisions, lies. Also, there is no reason to do me to be so emotionally involved. I do not live there and have no plans to ever again. It is waste of time to be on FB so much. Losing friends and all that over things I can not do anything about other than vote my heart, like everyone else. So the point of this is besides the story is all the talk about how bad universal health is, is BS! I know of no one in any country that has it, not want to have it.
 
Anyway back to the operation, it was not pleasant, I guess no medical thing is. In this case, it was more, mentally distressing than physically. I go back in two weeks for the other eye. I am not looking forward to it, but it is bearable and beneficial to have it done and I’ve after a few days of discomfort. If you need to have the surgery, do it and move on. Now I can see clearly and able to get a Japanese drivers license. Maybe, just maybe I can get a small motorcycle one day an explore the countryside since it is doubtful I will get to explore the Waterworld anymore than I have. I have some slight access to a local boat, but I dislike being a bother, troublesome for the access. On the other hand, one never knows what the tide or the universe will bring in…Amitoufo.
 
 

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 _/|\_

 

 

Happy 108/2018


2018/ 108 

It was that time again, the year-end 108 ya. In keeping with the Buddhist tradition at NW of ringing the bell for the 108 temptations/ “sins” . Washing them away, vowing to do better, gratitude, the whole thing.
At midnight on December 31st, Buddhist temples all over Japan will ring their bells a total of 108 times to symbolize the 108 human sins in Buddhism and to get rid of the 108 worldly desires. This is called joya-no-kane (除夜の鐘 ).
It started as just a fun thing back in my first starting days of Kyudo. Now it has developed into something more meaningful for me. The arrow is a symbol of piercing evil, like the sword it is a powerful charm. For me these days the 108 takes on a more serious tone since becoming a Cha’n priest. I do not have a large bell and do not go to the ringing ceremonies, however, I can do my own. Which for me is the 108 ya substitute? 
Also, to me, it is a re-dedication, a vow for another year of Kyudo practice. Making another commitment to persevere! A test of will power and dedication.i was close to not doing it, I was seeking a reason not to, but I rose to the challenge. I made a bit more ceremony out of it this year. Lil incense at the start, rang a small meditation bell, had a small drink(s) of sake with my Father-in-law ( in memory with his picture ) at my three breaks for tea. This was done at the little altar I set up temporary downstairs. As we had a death in the family somewhat recently we are not supposed to have “celebrations”! My sister and brother in law are coming for Lunch on the 2nd. So we can pray there together before lunch. So yeah, I had a small altar set up, poured a sake cup for Otosan and an Obachan, I had a drink with them. I remember in Karate we would do 100 kicks then a cup of Sake, 100 punches then a drink…
My ceremony was a cup with the departed at my three breaks. It did get me a little warmth when shooting. It also caused my focus to waver a couple of time and got smacked in the face by my Yumi! LoL. It was sort of like being brought back to attention in a zendo by the person with the stick.

It is challenging training, doing it right, not just to shoot, to shoot. In the start I was gripping my yumi too tight, I could feel it starting to hurt the callous on my hand. I had to wear a thin glove, it would be a long practice. It worked, it also was handy against the cold that had set in, harder after dark. I started late in the day about 4:00 pm, around 6:00 the wind picked up and the temperature dropped. I was pretty bundled up, but still, I could feel it and it was Shugyo to hang in there. It was worthwhile. I am getting a better understanding of how I am supposed to be drawing. I can tell the difference from last year and the prior.

It took me about 2.5 – 3 hours to complete the 110 shots. Which including breaks and dinner, so it was not bad at all. Other than the cold, that was a challenge and the shoulder pain that came to visit about 50 arrows into the shoot.

I was hoping there would be another invite to the Shinto Kyudojo for New Year shooting like last year, but that did not happen. So I went beyond the disappointment, went and shot on my own. That was part of the reason I was slow to get motivated this year, as I was looking forward to going to the shrine for part of my 108 and visit the Shrine there for NY. Oh well, disappointments are part of life. Like the parting of the 2018 and lost loves, one has to just let it go and move on into 2019. May we all do better and all beings be free from suffering…Amitoufo