I thought, ok I will suck it up, breathe and do this.
I thought, ok I will suck it up, breathe and do this.
Even small steps forward, is still progress, it is not the size of the step, it is the direction.
I am starting to feel like I am making some progress on several endeavors. Since I just came in from Kyudo practice I will start with that.
There was a Rei Kai today. It took me a while to figure out it is Rei Kai, not Dae Kai, not that it really matters, it is just a label. The event is important, not what I called it.
The ReiKai today was small as most of inner dojo events are. It was cold, I continue to be grateful we are inside dojo. I would have really suffered had it been outside. Still during break many were standing around our one little space heater, or had on their outside coats.
The day went smooth, it was a relaxed day. My shooting was not great, I was able to hit one out of the first two sets , then as I made adjustments I hit two out of the last set of four. After that time one of my Sempai Sensei said something to me, as him another Sensei who often helps me had been watching my shooting and discussing it. The second Sensei, the senior seem very reluctant to say anything, but the other spoke up. My balance when shooting was off. I guess I was leaning into the shot too much. My pushing toward the mato was turning into a lean toward the mato. I made a note of it.
The main shooting was over now was the time everyone shot again but instead of 4 arrow, it was one, per round. If you made the shot you continued, if not bye bye. I applied a correction to what I had been told. Instead of just pushing, I lifted my head and stretched my spine upward, like when doing Tai Chi, or sitting Zazen. Also then push toward the mato and away from it with the opposite hand. So as I had been told before or read, that it was more of a circular expansion not just vertical. To the Heaven and earth, and to the sides. So I guess not really round, but all around. I also did the tightening of the triceps as Yamashita Sensei had told me, upon release. The other thing was to place myself “in between the bow and the string. Aonther thing I had heard or read about, but I finally figured out the feeling. When I do it the ya goes straight, like an arrow :-). It is sort of leaning into the bow to place yourself in the middle. Technically I am not between the bow and the string, but it feels that way. I am not supporting the pull with my arms, and chest, but “body”, Bam , a hit, I thought I was done for a while. But I was called up again, Bam! hit, and a another time. I was in the finals. I missed my last rotation shot, maybe everyone else did as well. However, wow I was doing good. I am finally starting to understand, things are starting to click. Usually when I think like that, I find I am wrong, but so far this time it has held up. I still have a way to go, but I am making progress and have found the spot to aim from on my Yumi. Now more and more practice and I should be ready for the Shinsa this summer. Sato Sensei asked me was I going to the shinsa in March I said no, more practice yet. But I believe with continued practice Summer will be it. If not there is Autumn, and Winter. Also next year, if God be wiling and the creek don’t rise. Maybe these days it should be If God be willing and hte bombs don’t fall! Either way I am feeling good about this being the year of Yondan. The “Dog” is with me!
The day before I had my monthly meeting with the Shakuhachi group. A cold and rainy day, once agin we met at Oota- Sensei shop. This from what I understand maybe becoming out regular meeting spot. It is a bit rustic, but comfortable and no hassle to be there and no conflicts with other groups wanting to use the space.
We went through the usual drills. I was able to play along on a couple of piece that I had not done before. For me that was a personal victory. Then everyone played the individual pieces they are doing. Finally it was my turn, I was not really excited about, but I did Choshi. The Yamamoto, version. I received some corrections and tips on playing. Then asked to do it again so I could practice. It was better, still needing work but better. I could hear a Sempai grunt an approval of parts I did correct. Afterwards he says, I do the last phrase well, I did need to work on the small adjustments. Another Sempai showed me how to correct one part. Later I was told I have good potential my tone is good. That was good to hear…yatta!
I also decided on the Shakuhachi I wanted Oota-Sensei to make for me. I heard a couple of different sizes being played and my ear was most pleased with the 2.0. It was told to me later by another Senpai about having six hole instead of 5. I had not thought of that, but upon hearing it said and explained why, it is a good idea for my experimental flute. It will take some time before it all comes together. Oota-Sensei will have me select the Bamboo I want as the next step, now that I have chosen the size.
I was given the application for joining the Myoanji temple. This was helpful. I can fill out the form before meetinG with Matsutani-San next month. The Sempai who gave me the application, told me later that he would be my sponsor if needed. I thanked him told him that Matsutani-San a friend of my Sensei said he Would sponsor me. The Sempai said, ohhhh, yes, you should go with him as a sponsor he is very well known…Yatta, Another plus for me!
After the practice meeting, as is the custom we went out for food and drinks. I have never done that in the States, hanging out with the guys at a bar drinking and chatting. Even with my Kung fu family. We did that at the Dojo with Shifu after our closed door classes. My brother and I when we went out it was to eat Chinese food. It was not that often like a ritual as it is with the Japanese. It is a normal custom in Japan, at lest with companies. It was fun, even with my limited Japanese we had a good time. One Sempai is heading to Hawaii soon and wanted to practice some English. They made sure I had what I could eat and we had a good time talking misc stuff including, Shakuhachi technique playing compared to feeling playing,
So process is being made. The new band is feeling positive, Kyudo is feeling positive, Shakuhachi world is also feeling positive. I need to crack down on my Japanese study next. still…The year of the Dog is off to a good start…Yosh!
Well travel time is over for a while, sort of, a couple of small trips still on the horizon, but nothing to write home or blog about.
On the Music scene …thankfully my Shakuhachi has been repaired. My Sensei took it to his friend, who he says is one the of the number top Shakuhachi makers in Japan. This makers usually does not do repairs on other makers instruments, but as a friend he is doing/did it. The maker did and outstanding job also much much cheaper than the original repair person I took it to. That guy was really more into selling me a new one than repairing mine.
So now I have a nice whole flute again. He not only fixed the crack but the joint as well. I like the wrapping he did. It gives the flute “character “ and that cool old school Shakuhachi look. Sensei and the maker said even though my shakuhachi is not a professional level model it is still a good flute. Especially says Sensei for playing Honkyoku songs. He says it is rare to find this type of flute these days as most makers are making “modern” sounding flutes. Tuned to western pitch and louder playing. So I am pleased to have it back. I have also learned to take better care of it when it is resting.
Now I can really crack down on my practice for the up coming event I am scheduled for in March. I will be doing my first public performance in front of serious players at a Buddhist temple event. This a big deal for me and it sort of coincides with my 3 years of lessons anniversary.
At this event I will meet a Komuso who is to be my sponsor for joining in the Miyonji Temple as a “real” Komuso. Again something that really only matters to me and in the large picture of life means nothing. Isn’t that the same with most of our individual ego trips, adventures. Gives a little boast to our own self-image.
On the other hand, who knows what help, lift it will give someone when out as a Komuso to someone who hears the music.
Lastly, I will be placing my order for a new Shakuhachi this weekend. I have settled on what I want. I will order it from one of the members of the classical Shakuhachi Society I play with once a month. This is the member who gave me the large Shakuhachi which I enjoy. I have decided on one in between the 2.5 and the 1.8 cm I like the deeper tone of the larger flute over the smaller. The larger one though is more difficult to play, more so I think with “modern” songs I want to play. If I am wrong I will just make due with it and adjust to the song. At least that is the plan. Man makes plans, God laughs is a saying.
On the band scene, we have had our second rehearsal with the new band. A keyboard player has joined us. It really helps round out the sound.
Another plus with him is he also sings so we can work on some vocal harmonies that really adds to the band sound. I heard from the blues “Doctor” that the band has been selected to play again this year at the big city Blues Festival, however we will be once again in the small club. Reason being our vocals are weak. Quite understandable. Really we have none. The “Doc” is a weak singer and we never practice on vocals, well on anything really. I have on a couple of songs tried to “hear” a harmony with him but he is difficult to harmonize with, not really an expressive voice, he plays better than sings. Which is ok, for the blues, but limits the band appeal.
I am still waiting to see if I have been selected to do a solo act at the festival. The choices are selected and posted on Sat.
Four days…4 Temples
What a Long strange trip it’s been
It is almost a new year as I start this writing. Maybe it will be the New Year, year of the Dog by the time I post this. Year of the dog, btw, is suppose to be a good year for me. I am not dog year, I am Tiger but we are compatible. Going by Chinese horoscopes. Which I have dabbled into. But that is another story time… This one is about the changes in life, paths we walk, the many lives, not just one. I am writing a book about the sailing adventure. I had not put in much background about before sailing, maybe this will go in the book…
Ok yeah, so moving on. I have been busy musically of late. The Snafkin master passed away. I went to “wake” after the cremation. There was a fairly big turn out. Many did songs, including me. I did a couple. I played a Buddhist Shakuhachi song, it had to do with prayers, an offering for passing/passed spirits into another realm. It is more complex than that but that is a simple break down. It was my first non-shakuhachi related playing of this song. I had done a recital a couple of weeks earlier and played this song then. I was somewhat nervous about doing this song, but I pulled it off with no mistakes and it seemed everyone enjoyed it. So that was a success.
I next did a song on the piano. A New one I was just working on. I am getting more comfortable playing the piano now after many years of being shy about it. I have had enough practice and figured out I only need to play well enough to back-up myself singing. The cool part was my favorite Sax player sat in with me. I am not a big Sax fan , but I really like her tone. To bad it was not recorded. A few people were surprised I played the keys, including of couple of piano players I had jammed with in the past. I was surprised I did it with no errors for my first playing of this song.
Another spot, I was invited to do a spot by the percussionist I play with from time to time at a small concert he was putting on locally. It went fairly well. Not as planned. Life is like that. I had packed up my guitar and new ( to me) keyboard I had purchased to bring. However I was told there was a piano already there so no need to bring mine. The problem it turns out with that was it was not on stage. So after I did my guitar songs and moved to piano. I had no drum tracks, so I had to wing it with the beat. Not as effective as I had planned. Even though I have done it beat-less before. Also something sounded off to me. unknown if the piano was not just in tune or I was playing in the wrong register. Anyway I cut my play time on the keys to just one song instead of two. Which was ok, because the show was long already. I had a total of three songs instead of four. No big deal. I got good feed back for my key work from another pianist. That is my new musical challenge to up my Blues keyboard skills. That has been a desire of mine for a while, now I am making it real.
The doctor asked me to do a small session with him at his favorite club “live house” they call them here in Japan. I agreed , but under conditions. I was not going to sing all the songs, he needed to do that. Another was I wanted a song list before the show not on stage at he show. I gave him two days to do that. Even then morning of the show he wants to change things and do a couple of song I had never played before or sang. I refused! So we stayed with the original plan. It went well, in fact we sounded pretty good, I was surprised. The drummer filling in is steady and the keyboard player listens to me and the drummer. So the three of us are listening to each other to stay on track, the doc not so much. However it was ok. We did not embarrass ourselves (me).
I was asked by a club owner called the Red House, to play bass for a guy coming into town on tour. He is sort of famous being Japanese, but living and studied Harmonica in the states. It went well. We had a short rehearsal before the show, the day of the show. It made for a long day, but we rocked the house. It was fun and I got paid. The two guitar players were great and the drummer was steady. The Harmonica player is good , but I did not think he was all that. I do nt think I am all that, but I am truthfully better, even when playing bass at the same time. Anyway, it was fun and I got paid.
last week at the same club I entered a contest. I played a couple of songs on piano and one of guitar. It went over well. I got a lot of positive feedback afterward. I did not win, which is not a big deal. I did not expect to do so. The majority of the bands were hard rock, myself and one or two other people were the only ones not doing hard rock. I was also the first act, that is never good in a contest. Still it was a success to me. My purpose was to just get out and play live keys. The other bands were loud loud loud, after I played I went outside and stayed until it was over. When it was done I listen from outside. I heard clapping and not my name so I left after chatting with a few people there.
The next day I sent the club owner a note. Thanks for the spot I would settle the entry fee with him next time I saw him. Also said I was planning on doing more solo spots, did he had any suggestions for my act. He said he loves my vocals and I would have more impact with a band. I said yeah, band are more fun, but I am limited with my Japanese. I did most of the singing in the past for the Doc’s band. However he does not like to practice or care about being organized for a show, so I limiting my playing with him. A couple of days later I get a note from the owner asking if I wanted to do a session with him and a friend. Sounds like there maybe a new band in the making. I had mentioned before I was looking for a band that needed a singing bass player. He had said he was looking for one. Now it seem like it is going to life. If I couple get with a serious group that worked even once a month I would be pleased and feel fulfilled.
Another venue…It had been a while since I went to this club. It was where I first got the first Japan gig with the Doc’s band. We worked there for a couple of months, then did not get asked back due to lack of people coming out to see us. This club has a couple of Jam sessions a month. I had been not going. However as of late I decided to show up for one. I can see other players and also get my “rep” out more. The club owner was pleased to see me and I was recognized by a few. Even though arriving late I was given a play spot. At first just for playing bass, then the owner told the organizer to have me on the mic. It went over well.
My actual purpose for attending this jam was to meet the person doing the organizing. He was going to be the drummer for the band I was sitting in with for the touring Harp guy. He is pretty well know and I see him playing a lot in the Blues circle here in Osaka. I wanted to meet him before hand. This writing is not really in order of how things went down over the last month, but it is the general idea. This was before I did the bass only gig at the other club.
I went again to this club the other night for another session. It was my plan to play keys, but it did not work out. I was called up to play Harp on a couple of songs and sing. Later called up to play Bass. When it came my turn again to play this time of the keyboard that had been setup. I had to cancel in order to catch my train home. If I missed it I was screwed. The train stop at 12:00 am here. Which sucks! I found out when in Taiwan it is the same there.
So lastly, there is a Big Blues festival which is held yearly. The Doc’s band played the last couple of years. He asked me if I would play with them again this year. I said ok, however if it would not interfere with my playing on my own in the festival. I had asked the organization committee if I could perform with a band and also as a solo artist. I got the ok. This is a non-paid event, mostly just PR. I still have to submit a video audition, but I can can do that. I have been told in the past my vocal are my strong point. I am finally accepting that and making use of it. I like playing the piano and singing blues more than playing guitar and singing. I like the fuller sound of the keys, even though I am not that skilled with them …yet. With the drum machine and the combination of piano and harp it sounds reasonable enough to step up and out. Being one of the few Blacks here, and can sing and play gives me some marketability, I think. So I will see how things go from here. Possible new band, new solo act. Some progress.
On the Shakuhachi path. I spoke to my Sensei about my wish to be a full real Komuso, not just a dressed up player. HE in turn spoke with a friend of his. This person turns out to be on some board for the main temple in Kyoto that deals with Shakuhachi Komuso affairs. It has been arranged for me to meet this person and he will “sponsor” me for membership into the main headquarters temple. Only thing is I have to wait until spring. This priest lives in a fairly far off place and he says it will difficult to reach in the winter. In the spring there will be a large Komuso gathering in Osaka. I should attend and he will give me the details on joining officially and make the arrangements afterwards. I will be “In like Flint. “Yatta!
Next Up Kyudo world…
Pilgramage – Nara