弓道 – The path continues

弓道 – The path continues…


It was a cold day. It had been so for the last few days. My plan was to just deal with it an go to the dojo. I had not any real shooting time since before the New Year. I had a few days in at the home base Makiwara. Things felt more common more comfortable. I guess I am getting used to pushing some part like my shoulder to the extreme, down or/and back, something. Yamashita sensei had told me something about the shoulders being forced back/down, gave them stability as part of the body within hanara.
 
Another thing I am still working with but some headway. When doing Kung Fu our balance is more centralized when in a stance. More towards the center of the foot, slightly back on some stances. When in Kai, the body, the center is different. Even though expanding up and out (Nobei), it is also down. The down balance point is set more toward the toes.
 
I had plans of doing a Shaolin practice session, go to lunch at the Indian place I like then go to Kyudo. Well, I did do the Kyudo part…
 
When I arrived there were just a couple of people there, and they were packing to leave. So good timing on my part. I got lucky. The dojo was cold cold cold. Since everyone was leaving I opted not to change fully. Just my dogi top. It was nice to have the place to myself again.one everyone left, I put on my knit cap, that helped. Having, bald head at a time like this was not fun. Yeah, I could have just done it as training, but why put myself through that now!?
 
I stretched a little then got on the Makiwara. I returned to using the Bamboo Yumi at the dojo since I will only be coming in once a week now that I am not working. I will shoot at home with the Hybrid bamboo Yumi. I can check my distance self when I come into the dojo. We’ll see how that works out. I will not be testing again until Summer. I think the summer exam will be at my first Dojo, maybe that will be lucky for me. Maybe the Master’s spirit will help me! The March exam is just a couple of months away. I am not there yet. We have hopes of going to Hawaii this spring. One of the many training plans I have while there is to visit the Hawaii Kyudo Kai and have someone guide me in English just in case I am missing some pointer. I have already been in contact with them and an expected. I had also planned to visit ChouZen-Ji a Zen temple in Hawaii that has part of their teachings the practice of Kyudo. However, that has been evolved into “Zen Archery”. This temple’s philosophy has always had a big merger with doing Kyudo. They are one of those schools that value the “art” more than the rank, there are no ranks. However, now the temple uses Western Bows in their Zen Archery program. Oh well. I will still go since my interest is really in the philosophy of their style not so much the mechanics. Also the sensei teaching this Zen Archery is also a Shakuhachi sensei and a Roshi with the Rinzai order there. It should be interesting speaking with him. Hopefully, my wife can get her visa on time. so we can go. What an ordeal that has been. However, that is another story…
 
Meanwhile, back to the dojo, I digress…
I go onto the floor for my first shot, I did not give it much thought, other than to cover the points when I shot. After that shot, it occurred to me it was also my first shot of the year and Hit. I took it as a good sign. Then it was hit and miss for the rest of the session. I did end up with a 50% hit rate, so that was good. Maintaining that and improving is the thing, but for now, 50% and ending with a hit of two in a row. It was starting off a Happy New Year.
 
Advertisements

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

 

弓道 – The arrow flew…

I learned a lot or realized a lot over the last 3 – 6 mos of Kyudo practice than I did over the last 2 years or three however long it has been since I passed Sandan. Maybe three yrs, it seems like longer. Anyway, things have clicked in more now and I feel more confident. I still have a long ways to go, but at least I feel like I am improving. For a long, I felt stalled. The other day at practice I was surprised Yamashita came by after I arrived and gave, later on, gave me some more pointers. You are close to level up he says. He said the other time as well, I feel it more. My hits are not improving a lot, but my next to each other shots are. Anyway, my point to my self is, I am improving. getting, understanding, maintaining the crosses is paramount in how the arrow flies.

Update

yesterday was the shinza. I had to get an early start, and it was going to be a long day for me. There was the Shinsa, and all day affair, then I had a band gig. There was no time to return home and unload my stuff change and re-go, so I had to take all I needed in one trip. Yuk.

I packed the night before, I went to practice yesterday as well. Just for a couple of hours and something light. I closed the poor day with two hits in a row. I felt, hmmm I got a 50/50 chance of pulling this off. My hits are still few in between as of late. Oh well. I was not going make a big deal out of it. I figured out a way to carry everything using one of my handcarts, and also had a free hand for my bow and arrows, yet nothing hang off my pack. So I was fairly good. and off I went.

Yesterday I had a really nice Indian lunch. I had not been to my friend’s place in a while. So I went over to the restaurant. I got a custom order which he said he made a little ‘Hotter” than my usual medium because it was getting colder, it would help warm me. It was good a the time. The next day not so much. it made for a somewhat uncomfortable ride over to the test location and a large part of the day. I spent way too much thought on how weird my stomach felt and should I/do I need to “go”???

I met up with my group just as the building doors opened. One of my friends saw my load and suggested she take my kyudo stuff back to the dojo the next day since she was driving. Wow, A big help. I had thought about asking her, but she beat me to it!.

There was a group of us about 5 or 6 in total, plus another woman from the Shrine school that hangs with us at these things. I have tested with her two other times for Yondan. Once we were allowed to go to our starting room we all went up and found a spot. The next step was to get our spots and numbers, then check in. Oh so helpful to have others helping me figure out times and places.  Big big help. My path was to be. written test at 10:40 am, then shooting at about 4:30pm. ( long wait 😦 ) . I got my place in the lineup. At first, I was to be #4 in my group of 5. I thought ok good. I can settle into the spot and all eyes will not be on me at first. Then as people did not show up, I was told I was #2. Still ok. I thought maybe better.

The written test went fairly smooth. I am used to the drill now. They say the question, which is drawn from a closed envelope. They do not even know beforehand. This day I was able to understand the first question but not the second. So I got clarification on that and started. I always feel like I should fill up more of the paper but it is not about that. I felt ok with the answers. I waited for the person next to me to finish so I could get by and leave. That part was done.

I went to lunch with the ladies, we found a sitting spot then just hung out. Once in a while getting to watch a couple of our lower ranks shoot. One did ok, I thought, but not her. The other woman not so well. She was trying for San dan but could not hit her one shot needed.

Finally after what seemed like forever, and I took a little sitting up in lotus nap, it was my turn. I got in line to find out I am Omae, yet again! Not number two, number 1. Yuk. In a place, I dislike because of the footwork in and out. Sigh. oh well. It was not in my hands, not a good sign though. We started. I did not think about being the only Gaijin, I thought about which foot to step with first. I made my step onto the floor. Ok, but then messed up my timing bow. ok, a small thing. My steps, placement, and ending went ok this time. The group was in alignment on Honza and Shai. Ok the first arrow, thinking step by step…miss!! Oh well, it’s done. I make a step to close my feet, then realize I am not supposed to do that! I try to act natural and cover, but it was a big error. Which, one of my sensei’s called me on as soon as he saw me afterward. We laughed at my goof up!
Back to the shoot. Next arrow was no better than the first another miss. I could not tell if I was high or low or anywhere. I could not see where it hit. The black arrows, black/brown feathers look cool, but they suck like that, Hard to see at the target and in travel. My increasing bad eyes does not help. However, I can see well enough to hit at times when I have “things” as they should be and hold them in place. Seeing the details of the lines separating the colors in the Mato will not help me to hit the Mato. I still just suck at that :-). I was able to leave the floor without any more goofs. No victory dance tonight.

Ok well, another time, another day, more training is now. No one in my group except maybe one shodan passed that day. Nor did another of the other people I knew there testing. it was that kind of day.

I asked my sort of new friend from the Shrine Dojo. How many times has she tested for Yondan? She said she did not know or remember something like that. She said she just keeps doing it. I understand now why when another acquaintance from Banpaku, my first school, she cried when she passed the Yondan exam!

I know there were celebrations in some camps, but not in ours. We spoke only more training and had some laughs at our errors and hide private tears. So we parted for the day saying our goodbyes and see ya in class, ganbarimashos.

As for me. I know I gave it that extra effort practiced daily, even when not feeling it trips to the dojo. Oh well. I learned stuff as I said at the beginning of this. No Effort is a fail if you learn something. I had given some thought to going to one of those big seminars for training and testing in English. However this has shown me, I am not doing badly as there are others with the same time invested and still facing the struggle and they speak the language. Yeah, so for me, it is back to just blending all I got into a reliable unit. I will not plan on testing in spring. I will just work and practice may be the summer session…although I would like to go to the seminar in Taiwan. English speakers, vegetarian food, my Chan Shifu there, a couple of friends to Jam with. yeah, it could be a cool trip. however. No funds…on my radar.

As I told other classmates ( and myself), the Shinsa is just another nothing, you train hard before Shinsa, you train hard after shinza. It is like the Zen saying…” before enlightenment, you chop wood and carry water, after enlightenment, you chop wood and carry water”…Amitoufo

 

弓道 – As the arrow flies : A well dressed man

There is no Ebay here in Japan. I heard there was at one point but, it was not popular. Culture differences. There is a Yahoo auction though. Which is basically the same. Small differences, but overall the same. I get stuff from time to time there. Not too long ago I finally found a Kimono that would fit. It is a fairly heavy silk with lining. I wanted wool, but I could not find the size in the price I wanted. The Kimono I got is dark blue, heavy silk and lined. it also came with a Houle jacket. ( outer jacket). I had my tailor make some adjustments so I could use it for Kyudo. I have a Black linen Kimono, but I wanted something for the winter. Now I am good. It is not for a formal shinza, because it is blue, not Black. Only mostly for class, training, those formal Rae-Kai and Tai-Kais.
I wore it to class the other week. It was spotted right away and I had a small group of my “buds” surround me checking it out. It was kind of funny!. I got the approval after I said the sleeves still needed a bit more adjusting. The tailor opened them, however, she opened them too much much. That was one of the things that my friend spotted right off and came over to inspect which brought others.

One thing I had to adjust on the fly was the length. I had asked the tailor about it being shorter and was told, It is usually adjusted via the Obi. Yeah really, it is a bit weird but it does work. When wearing it with no Hakama the length is good. I like it, but with the hakama, it hangs too low.  I got it worked out now after a couple of wears. I do not want to cut it I may wear it one day to something else other than Kyudo, like a Shakuhachi recital.

Otosan’s Haole @ Taikai

One of my goals on coming to Japan and Studying Kyudo was to get 4th dan so I could wear my father-in-law’s Kimono jacket. In the states, it is a big deal to wear the kimono and one in the “federation” can wear it only after reaching 4th. In Japan, not so much.
Once we arrived in Japan some of my kyudo stuff vanished. The kimono was put away to be safe. Yup, you know how that goes. Well, it was safe just lost, for years. Until just last month! I have since then found out it is not a real kimono, even though expensive, it is the jacket that is worn over the Kimono. It is also short in the sleeves for me, therefore, can not be worn with my Kimono. Yeah, so that was a bummer, so much for that little “honor my father in law” fantasy. However I did figure out that I still can wear it on those cool days at the dojo, when I wear the dogi but I am not shooting all the time. Like at Rae-Kai and Tai Kai’s. I need some extra body cover but want to be kyudo stylish. 🙂

I ended up doing just that this past weekend, it worked well at the Tai Kai. Even though it got warmed up by the afternoon, I still wanted to wear it because I was fighting a cold and wanted to stay warm. Since I had spent the last two days in the house sleeping so to wage war on the attacking virus. It helped, I won, Friday I was yukky, Sat still so-so but better. By Sunday I was ready to go to the Tai Kai.

So how did I do you ask?

Not bad, not great but ok. Yamashita Sensei said I did well after hitting my first 3 of 4. opening round. I only hit one of the second, Hmmmm, still good enough to pre-final, which I failed but, I was not expecting to get there. It helped me feel better about the upcoming shinza on Sunday.

Winter dress rehearsal

In a few times in the past, because I had seen people wear turtlenecks and/or long-sleeved undershirts at the Dojo when practicing. I figured it was ok, it is. However I had carried that thought over to a Tai Kai with Kimno wearing, maybe some first of the year thing last year.

The Sensei who rarely smiles says quietly to me; You do not wear that combination. eh?? I am thinking! a Dogi with kimono is ok for an adult, he says, but not the whatever I was wearing with the kimono. That was a no. I thanked him, and gave some thought to translating what he said and then went “ahh sou ka!” I got it. Ok, I also filed that away for later use, under a red flag.

Now that it is getting cooler and I have my winter kimono and expect to be doing more, I asked one of the Senseis. Is it ok, should one wear a Dogi with a Kimono and Juban or just the Dogi and kimono?

He told me something, I did not quite get, but sort of understood. I heard him speaking with another afterward and came back to me and said, ignore what I said I am not sure. There was some talk I could find the answer on the homepage for the school. Later that evening he sent me a link.

My next visit to the dojo I was approached by a sempai who spoke of something while pointing at a sheet of paper, that took a couple of people to help me understand, to what she was referring. It was about wearing an undergarment with Kimono, the question I asked another sempai/Sensei. They spoke in terms of numbers ok. So I was sort of understanding after some thought. Layers they are referring to not names. Yes, a Dogi with kimono is ok and Juban. Ok, I got it, I should make a mental note of what others wear and judge. Doing, understanding for myself, most times works. I started checking out those at today’s event.
I notice later Yamashita sensei was wearing Dogi, Juban, and Kimono. My next encounter with him in passing. I spoke with him for clarification. He gave me what I needed to hear.

The next kimono class I wore the threesome, it worked well. So when it gets really cold I can wear this setup and a sleeveless undershirt and maintain some warmth. Like at the Shrine New Years shoot. I am still not sure about at a Shinsa, it may be ok, I will check out who does what on Sunday. I can deal with the temp for a short time shirtless, in my Linen Kimono, rather than make an error, and lose face, but be warm for a short time. Discomfort It is good training! …Amitoufo

Days in the Life

I spent most of the day doing gardening. When one reads that you would think I have a big yard . However it is quite small, my rear Balcony mostly. There is a small front yard. In this case I am speaking mostly about the vegetable space which is on the rear balcony. The front yard space gets too many bugs! The rear space is manageable.

So I spent most of the  day there and doing related stuff instead of going to Kyudo. More on that later. The veggie garden is a good source of Chan awareness of life, interdependence and a sort of meditation. Working the soil, watching something grow, nurturing it, then eating it. A life cycle. I picked up a bunch of chicken poop for plant food the other day. Cheap. I was not getting the results I wanted with the Fish poop. I am hopefully this will be better. It is what the farmers use around these parts. I also picked up new soil for some bigger pots I got for tomatoes, and some new shelf making items. I did not really do much planting , just getting organized for the spring planting and arranging some things for the autumn stuff. There are a few things I can grow pretty much all year round, like Kale. It is a blessing to have mild winters.

Right now I have some cayenne peppers I am looking forward to harvesting I picked a few here and there now drying. Also just did a new group of lettuces plants. My one pot of Kale is recovering from the caterpillar attack this summer, and planted some news one that are coming up well. Yeah the Bamboo mantis Veggie garden is doing well.

 

 

After 4.5 years of experiments I have a good sense of what is needed, and what will work. Part of the time was also spent going to the store and picking up a few things for the gardens, front and back. It was good to do and a blessing to have and do…Amitoufo.

Kyudo…

In other news. ( that more readers care about)…Kyudo. The next shinsa is a few weeks away. I have a different attitude about it this time. I am less mental intense, but at the same time, more focused. I have gotten some new adjustments I am working on, angle of the Yumi after release. If it is the wrong way it means I messed up during the release and most likely opened my hand. This I was told by Yamashita Sensei.  Do not when going from DaiSan to Kai bring the Yumi straight down the cheek. It should be away from the face until at the lip line then brought in to the face. Left arm is completely straight, the small twist comes when pushing the left thumb toward the Mato. Not from turning the arm which makes the shoulder rise. Yamashita Sensei, Nanadan told me the other day. Your hitting on the right side of the mato is a good thing , even missing. Hitting on the left is not so good. There was a because stated, but I did not get it!  Anyway little by little it is coming together. Even if it is not time yet, when it is time, I will be awesome… Amitoufo

 

Music:

Two of the three bands have gigs schedules, so that is picking up, sort of. I had one practice session with band 1, Sieki Band, the other day. It was ok, not everyone was there, some it was very loose. But ok, by way of just reconnecting. The 3rd band has a gig next month, we will practice a couple of days before that. The gig is the same night as my Shinza. Then up at 4:45 am the next morning, Monday to go to work. It will be a looonnnng day, really a long two days.
Casually thinking about my own solo show. Slowly getting a song list together. I am really more focus right now on Kyudo and Shakuhachi.
I really have no goal plans for shakuhachi, just to get better. The goals I had were learning to play the right way , not just by ear, and self-taught and then becoming a Komuso. I got both of those now, it is just to improve for the sake of improving. Also explore more of the Sounds and Meditation/healing aspect.

Music life has two parts. Pop/Blues and Shakuhachi…The Spiritual Side. It is not as fun, but it is an internal spiritual thing. The reward is different.

I am planning a trip to Muroji next month to do Takuhatsu and visit Matsutani Sensei. I am looking forward to playing there among the Autumn colors. I hope I can time it right. We have a trip to Cambodia also coming next month. It is be a busy interesting, hopefully fun month.

The survival job…

Work at the silver center goes on. At least for another 2 months before I am off for the winter. I am up at 4:45 so I can do my morning thing and get to work by 7:00 am. There after I do my morning greetings and check in, I find a quiet spot for some Qi Gong and a bit more stretching. Then find another spot to just sit and meditated. This spot is sometimes right there with the Lads who are chatting or just off to myself. Everyone is pretty friendly with me at this point. I am one of them some have taken to calling me “Chan” instead of “San”.

I from time to time get asked to do some Qi Gong/point Pain relief for some. Sometimes interrupting my meditation, but it is ok. I am usually looked out for when refreshments are being gotten for the crew. I have a good relationship there. It is much more comfortable than working for Marina for the zen “master”. Much harder physically, but that is ok, I look at it as training and exercise. It is all perspective and gratitude…Amitoufo

At lunch I usually go off to a quiet spot and sit alone. Depending on the location. When I am alone I can eat for 30 min, practice Shakuhachi for 15, nap for 15. Sometimes I grab a selfie for my SuiZen @ Lunch photo series. Once in a while depending on the location I just eat and nap like everyone else.

 

 

 

 

生活 – so now what…

I had written on my last post we had just had a Typhoon. This weekend, now, we are supposed to be the middle of another. The Force was with us on this one and it turned to rain Havoc on China instead. Even still the winds here are up with stronger gusts. Nothing to be concerned about though. I am doing a bit of blog work, listening to the local drums, it is a holiday weekend. Drums, flutes and those pull or carry floats are out and about. I forget the name I will check it out for later…if I remember…Matsuri.  It really has nothing to do with this post, other than it is what’s happening now. One thing about this Matsutri festival, they go late into the night. One of the main stations is just around the corner. With the drums, chanting, flutes, in my head I am not in Japan, but at a Native American Pow Wow ( tribal gathering). The sounds take me back there…

I will be going off to Kyudo soon as soon as there is a break in the weather, it is raining on and off from the passing typhoon.

Things has been quiet with the bands lately since our last gigs. Band number 3, our job was cancelled due to the Typhoon ( two ago), just got a notice to play in Nov. Band # 1 the drummer is out-of-town and I have not heard anything other than our submission to the Sakai Blues fest. Band #2 no news there either. I expect this means it is time for me to get back to working on a single act, to help support this addiction to play. Really “help to support” is kind of a joke, a lame one. Japan, at least this music life I am in, is not structured for band living support. For Real not as/with a single band, one has to have several items going, several pans on the fire you could say.  Even then still need a regular pay check from somewhere.

So yeah, Pop music life for me here will be from all “signs” purely a hobby. No money to be made, can be fun or a fantasy, not a way to make a living, at least at my level, at my age…even making transportation cost would be a good thing. A blessing!

And speaking of a good thing, –  I will use that as a Segway into  – …my Shakuhachi of which the Komuso aspect is a good thing. It gives me a sense of doing something worthwhile. Not chasing fame or fortune, but a more spiritual goal to my music study by blending Cha’n practice. It gives it all some point, some purpose other than making me feel good. Trying to get that musical orgasms playing. However the band players are not quite that good, and there is no money. So at this time in life, with no real dreams to fill, and the clock winding down on my earth passage, it is important to feel, at least for me, like I am filling a purpose. Making a contribution to easing suffering for someone on some level. Doing it via music is a big plus.

Hands in the dirt…

My summer gardening is for the most part done. I started a few Autumn plants. This year was, I think my most successful in terms of crops. I did not get a lot, but there were several and some variety. That was successful not the volume. I need to find a good organic fertilizer. I am more aware now of what will work. I need to develop a bug repellant formula and some way of applying it. The spray nozzles I have been using clog after a few uses.

I had an interesting time growing cayenne pepper. When it finally starts to grow, after many tries. The peppers did not look like the package picture. I was excepting small, thin and long. These were fat , thick and long. Also they were purple! Not red or green…ehhhh? Now that they are older, the Peppers turn green then red! Wow different! Now I have to let them dry once they are mature. Maybe mid winter or late winter I will finally have my shaker cayenne seasoning. I am thinking of making my own special mix, two kinds of pepper, some pink salt, lemon peel, maybe something else. I will wait for inspiration, I have time. 

Ok what else, boating. After working through a few things with the boat owner from BLISS! I am going to give another shot to a sailing club. I feel like my marine life was taken from me by the boatyard owner who I thought was my friend but now shall remain nameless.

I did go to kyudo after I started writing this post. it was sad. I got really depressed afterward. However…oh well, no one said it was gong to be easy. Going out to Takuhatsu the next day at Osakajo castle was a lift to my spirit. Out from under desire, other than to make a good sounding note, breath, take a step. The day pilgrimage is posted on the Komuso Blog it was a worthwhile day. Not in money terms but in sharing wordless Dharma.  Small blessings can be huge…Amitoufo 

 

 

弓道 – It’s a wrap.

It’s a wrap…

Friday Fever
Tonight is Friday, the Shinsa is on Sunday. I worked today. I hoped for rain so I could have off, but no! I worked. After some dinner or perhaps supper since it was sort of early, no matter. After eating and shower. I decided I will go to the dojo. I would only have a bout an hour there but, that is another hour of practice.
I listened to my recording of the Yondan questions and answers I made on the train ride over, so not to waste any time. When I arrived at the dojo, my sempai was there also practicing. He is working on 6th dan. When I was testing for San Dan he had just tested for Yon-dan. Now he is a 5th dan sensei. Sigh…yeah it is not a contest , but still… anyway he is very good. I looked at a grouping of his tonight, out of 8 shots, he had seven hits, all near the center. Sigh…
 
As for me, it was a depressing night. I have changed my thought again and will be using the lighter Bamboo. I felt a struggle using the Bamglass tonight. Maybe because I worked all day, and did a lot of lifting, maybe I just suck. Either way I did not feel the control I wanted, it was all too forced. Even though I had thought I had a break through with understanding and application, I sucked!
I was reminded tonight by Sempai that since it is a Shinsa at our dojo, many of the senseis and others not testing will be there helping…and watching…great ! thx…
Oh well it is all just training. Sooner or later I will overcome. I am just not feeling this is the time…but, I want to believe.
Sloppy Sat.

Off I went again to the dojo, for another round of practice. Almost there I encountered another kyudo bud. She is also testing on Sunday as is her son. I expressed my feeling of needing more training. She understood and felt the same, just from her look. We gave other the let’s just our best, talk…Ganbarimasho!! She was not going to the dojo so we split and went on our ways.

I have learned a lot this week, maybe not learned but defined, unlearned, corrected things this last couple of weeks, that have made a lot of difference in my arrow flight. So that in itself was worth the effort. I received some small info things I had not heard before and clarity on others. Yeah, the language thing has been holding be back, I am pretty sure. I had to reset my left arm twist, that was an issue for a long time and tenouchi, several times. Anyway

At the dojo I was expecting a large group of people again. It was pleasant to find there was only two others there, one was Yamashita sensei. I felt more at ease about just getting to shoot. I did not put on my full gig, just the top and my Kung fu bottoms which I wore them thinking I may practice afterward.

The few people there did not last long. Others showed up, but all were from our group including the dojo Kaicho. I practiced and felt disappointed but continued. The Kaicho watched me practice and asked which bow I was going to use. I explain my thoughts on the matter. He understood, but did not really advise. He did say something minor I did not get. I was ready to change again to the heavier yumi, however after explaining to him my thoughts and hearing him repeat and give some advice on shooting later about. About I was too tense, fighting the yumi, right hand too tense not using the elbow and the expanding balloon dropping instead of exploding outward, I decided the Bamboo was the way to go. Otherwise I am trying to use power to overcome my lack of skill. I can not relax into my form, as I am fighting the bow. So it is settled, I will be using the Bamboo. It is important that I have the leeway to set my form proper and not fight the form, or bow. Since the shot is all ‘within’ me the better my stance is the better the shot! The bow just moves it where I point. The clearer the point the straighter flies the arrow. He gave me a couple of points that helped toward the end of my shooting day. I also told him I felt I was not ready but I will do my best! He understood.

It is not a matter of trying, there is no try says Yoda, I will just do my best!
Work for “Shin Zen Bi “…Truth, Goodness and Beauty.

On the Shinsa, I am getting into the mind set of : Get it over with and enjoy the rest of the day with my mates and support them and take covert pictures for the HP.

Another thing that I had been thinking about is to wear my Kimono or change there. More stress. Not really but just a saying! Once there it is easier to be already dressed, but walking there and the train ride makes me self-conscience…

Oh well I decided, this is japan, it is not a big deal. Also people stare at me at times anyway, the rest do not care. Less for me to deal with being already dressed. ok so all is settled, Bamboo Yumi, dress before hand. So ready or not, I am set for tomorrow no matter what. The thing that I feel I am most bummed about is after this much time invested, I should be shooting better than I am, I should have more confidence than I do. I should not have this inner dialogue to reassure myself it is all good no matter what. I am hopeful but not confidant!


Ganbarimasu Fuukun, Yosh!

So some book study tonight, practice Shakuhachi, then to bed early. I will have an early start tomorrow. It is nice I have off on Monday to re-center.

 

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday

When I was a youth there was a car drag strip near our house, sort of. There would be commercials for the races on Sunday. They would all start with Sunday sunday sunday, see blah blah, sunday, Blah vs blah blah, sunday… This reminds me of that.. A big event that mean nothing outside of the small circle.

I was up at 5:30am to make ready for the shinsa. I had sort of planned to get a in a few shots on the Makiwara at home, do some Taiji and of course some meditation, after a decent breakfast. Well some of that happen, the morning Zazen, yup, the breakfast yup, otherwise nope. I practiced my shakuhachi instead, beforehe heading out. I did wear my Kimono, no one cared. They usually and this time also find the yumi most interesting and follow the length of it to the train ceiling. At the station I exit there is some kind of festival going on, with the big mobile cart shrines. I was mostly ignored.

I made my way to the Dojo through the park. I was passed by my friend I saw the other day. She was on her bike in her kimono going to the Dojo also…

Ohaiyo…we say…and she waves as going by…Sh eis wear a yello Kimono and a yellow sun hat. I yell “cute”…she waves again and laughs.

I was going to go to the Dojo first, then figured to come back across the street to practice Taiji in the park. Usually I, we end up waiting for the place to open when this early. She was waiting for me to arrive when I got there. I was surprised to see the place already open I was glad I came as early as I did. We went in and got organized. I am glad she was there she helped me get where we were suppose to be. We picked a spot and waited for the rest of our group to arrive. There were four of us from Kishiwada, and three from the Shrine Dojo, that joined us. I was quite surprised to see two of the people from the shrine I had tested with two years ago the last time I went to Shinsa. They were also still trying for Yondan. Wow. Yeah getting Yondan local in Japan is no joke! I was already feeling better about the Shinsa and my shooting, this made me feel even better. Ok so I figuring now I am not doing so bad. They have been doing Kyudo longer than me and we are all still in the same spot. The last time I saw them at the Shinsa, they both hit! However did not pass for some reason and are still at it. Ok, so yeah even with my poor language skills I am not doing as bad as I thought.

From the looks of the amount of groups setup in the waiting area there were about 6 other dojos with people there testing. I was number #64 in the overall line up. I was supposed to be second in the taihai ( or is it taiji?) group of five. However I got bumped to #1 in my group. Omae. I guess someone did not show, Not good. I was hoping for #3, but two was ok. There is some advantage to going first you set the pace for the group, when shooting. However you are the first one the judges see and are right there in their face when shooting. You have to be together from the start, no time to center while someone else is shooting. Sigh, ok, no matter I thought. I did it in front of Watase sensei the other day with no issues ( mostly) I can do it now! Still everyone who heard I and another got shifted to first ( Omae ) in the group had the same reaction as me, look of dismay and ohhhhh! I would go, deshou!! (“I know, right”)

We all sat around a bit, then things got started. The opening ceremonies got under way. The Judges did a Sharai and one head guy did a solo shot. He missed both shots, I felt even better. The judges did something like a Taikai or something, I did not get to see much/any. I came back from the loo after they started and where I was sitting I could not see, nor really cared. I listened for the hits, there were only a couple, I felt even better.

After that was over, the testing started. The Sandans test was first, the Yondan group ( mine) did the paper test. I am going to guess there was about 40 of us testing yon-dan. Usually they go over stuff give the questions and someone will come over to me, if they have not already and give me the questions in English. This time it did not happen and I had to raise my hand for help and was found a set of question in English. I re-worded some of the answers that were given in the book, from what I could remember. Not a difficult test, if you have a good memory.

We finished and went back to the ready room. After a short while we went to find a spot to have lunch. Overall the gym building was busy that day. There was some other event going on as well. We found some seats on the second floor and chowed, chilled and chatted.

After lunch it was the Yondan testers turn. I found out that my group would go up right after the next break. A couple people from my group went just before that. I watch and listen to them come back, some others also. None seemed pleased with their shooting. Only a few hit even one. I did a few warmup makiwara shots with others, then waited. I was not really nervous or anything, not enough to matter. I was just ready to get it done. When I sat down in the line up I was already “in the moment only stage”. I do not know if it comes from regular meditation or spending time playing live. It has gotten easier to make that shift to that space when doing stuff like this.

I stepped on to the floor and bowed. I was off and in the moment to moment mode. I noticed I was off in the line-up on Honza, the start line. Not good, not a big deal, maybe. The rest of the move through the Kimono manuevers went ok, I kimono did not stick as I thought in the heat. I turn and move up to the shooting line. I misjudge my steps again too short at Shai, and I am off on the line up. I noticed one of the judges had checked our line up on Honza and now again, we are off balance. Not good. But it is what it is now. None of it matters without hits.

I focus and make my moves, shoot and miss. Oh well. Thinking back perhaps I was more unsettled by the errors and being first than I thought. I missed something in my check list and missed. I have no idea where I hit. I can not see the black arrow. In a way that is good I can not adjust off the arrow, my next shot has to be pure in order to hit.

It is just practice now. I make my step off the line up so the next shooter gets a turn being seen clearly. I am doing standing form rather than kneel, so I move. After the fifth shooter I am back for the second shot. I have already not passed so it is just for practice, honor, to test myself further, whatever, the second shot. I run through my list of internal checks, trying to note if I miss something before, experimenting a bit with the time of holding Kai and re-scaning my form I release the arrow and it hits. A direct case of shooting for the prize vs shooting for the shot. So far I am the only one who has hit in this group, that it self is a win. I exit the floor with no issues.

I return to my dojo group, part of them are already in the line up, for the next group shooting round. I joke I hit both, they are excited, then I say just joking! For me it is over, I waited around to hear how the others did. It seems that out of our group I am the only one who hit anything, maybe one other. I did not pass, but I did better than I thought. I had wondered if I would be the only one who did not pass, the others all have better averages. I feel vindicated that I have not wasted my time training.

After all was over one of our school Sensei showed us a video of us shooting. My problem and a couple of others was the dropping of the left arm. For me even when I hit it dropped. It did not look elegant. I believe if I had hit I would have still not passed. A interesting bit I thought of, when I tested for San-dan, I hit both arrows, when I test first for Yondan I hit one and just missed the second. The second time for Yon-dan I missed both, this time I missed one, so Improvement…ne! Maybe next time is the charm!

Well this segment of training is over, there where many good lessons, and somewhat fun time, er…pleasant time is a better word. I won in the sense that I learned things. I have to remember and improve on the lessons for next time. I did not do a lot, hardly any photographs it did not seem the time or place other than a few of our group. I also learned from this about the best use of my Yumis. For events the Bamboo is the way to go, I can can hold Kai and run through the Tateyoko-Jumonji without collapsing Draw. For training the Bamglass gives me a workout, it pushes me. When training pushing is good.

Another thing I have learned, experienced from this is a cultural thing. It is hard to explain. I have notice a difference in the support, the group, the “wa” support from the Japanese vs Americans. In America, say Kyudo, a good example in something like this they say “good Luck”, and it is sort of causal. Japanese will say “do your best” and the sense that is conveyed is different especially if you are feeling unsure and they may even give advice. “Stay cool, relax, fight, go fight win!” An afterwards, the remains. Ok we need more training, ganbrarimasho ! For me this is only my third trial. I have more time than money invested.

Now to decide if I want to go again in Nov, push it or wait until Spring…I am grateful to have that choice.

 

Music, Kyudo and social media

The music part of the month is mostly over. I have another gig up coming at the end of the month with another band. I will just be playing Bass, no singing, no worries. I can just play. It is kind of nice to do that from time to time. I can focus on only that. When I am playing and singing and doing harmonica, if I lose focus I hit a wrong note. Most times I can cover it. Miles Davis once said when you hit a not planned note. it is the note that follows it that makes it wrong or not. Herbie Hancock tells a story about a wrong cord he used with Miles and he thought he blew it. However Miles just rolled with it and made it work. That is skill. I am not anywhere near that but I can fake it a lot when needed and bring it back. LoL

Ok yeah Kyudo. So this week I am finished with music projects and can focus on Kyudo. I got up today a bit on the “down” side mentally knowing I am not ready for the shinsa, I wasted a not cheap entry fee. However I just need just focus on doing my best. I went to the Dojo for Kimono practice, there was none ( kimono day practice, not the dojo). I was expecting it to be somewhat crowded as our dojo is hosting the shinsa this time around. I had heard form a friend from another dojo in Sakai, there dojo was closed so they would be coming to our to practice.

On the way to kyudo, I am expecting a quiet introspective ride to class. I hear my name and a woman who I know from kyudo was coming at me. She says she saw the Yumi and then me. MY first reaction is always…Ohhh Snap I have to have a Japanese conversation * ok, relax, breath, you can do this * We sit a for the most part it went well. Part of the trick is to control the conversation. If I asking questions, I do not have to answer them! It went ok, for the most part, I was glad when my station came, and I could leave. She was going somewhere else, A nice person but I was glad to see her go. …exhale .

 

I arrived as some of my dojo mates where leaving, I got a couple of do your best wishes from some for the up coming shinsa, only a few stayed, as the Sakai folks arrived. I was asked if I was ok with training with them on Tai hai by a Sempai Sensei, who helps with the Kimono class even though he is from another dojo. The one at the shrine. I said ok, even though I just wanted to shoot on my own. I got ready to do Tai Kai with everyone. I figured it was still something I needed a refresher on anyway…just do it! One can never do basics to much! Then I see my Sensei, the head guy is there. Oh Jheez I thought. Ok, roll with it. I will be under stern watch but, it is a good check on what I am doing. No different from the shinsa, but with no pressure. I feel much more confident about my Tai Hai skills than my hitting skills. I joined the group. I was surprised with no warmup or anything just step in and make my first two hits. I always tend to do better with my first shots. Most times, except in a Tai Kai….anyway. My classmate who rarely talks to me, gave me great job sign and words!. Thx, I said yeah, it was this time…

The next round I did not hit any, as I figured. Sensei gave me only a couple of small things to be aware of and change. Having to do with holding my Ya, stepping back off of shai, and my right arm angle. The woman who speaks little, said she noticed that I leaned away from the target on the next two shots which I missed. She also gave me a little pep talk. We had done shinsa together several times in the past. She has been at Kyudo longer than me, but still working on yon-dan like me. She was not testing this time, said she was not ready. I know the feeling, but I figured what the heck, it is a practice run and it is too late to back out now. All my Sensei’s and sempai there are expecting me to do it now also. No pressure though except that which I place on myself. We (most people I think) tend to judge ourselves harder than others. Also nothing will change except my yearly dues fee. LoL!

I brought my bamboo Yumi this time also to see with which I shoot better . Even though I know it is me not the bow I still think I do better with one more than the other. I made my first two hits with the Bamglass. The power of it feels good, but the Bamboo as I said give me the space to get everything within me in place….sigh. I am still out to lunch with way to go. I am leaning more towards the Bamglass today. I maybe change next time I go in and then again when I return. I have three days planned on spending at the Dojo. Today I was there for 3.5 hours, finishing with a poor average. Oh well. The mind thing is really a hard thing to deal with, being non attached yet doing one’s best. It really is a zen training. Do not focus on the results, do not be attached, be in the moment only, totally, mindful, yet not attached to the outcome. Yet there is that part that says, you have to use your vision and see success, everything happens in your mind first, imagine, visualize success, but do not be attached…Mu

Today is Tues, the shinsa is on Sunday. Most likely this will be posted in the shinsa day. I have had a Que of several posts.
I have only a few days left to endure this suffering and focus on training. I am looking forward to it being over in truth and considering if I should plan for the next one in Nov or hold a positive thought, or even plan on skipping the next one and work toward the Spring one, which I should feel better about because over all I am making headway. Yeah it is a mind game. Once this is over I can return to my Komuso practice with cooler weather temps and less other stuff that affects no one but me. I have a couple of trips to Nara in the plan… Amitoufo

In other news I am so tired of Facebook, it is so negative mostly these days. For my part in it I need to make more effort into posting positive stuff or environmental. Skipping the political stuff there is plenty of already. Also it will not make a bit of difference if a supporter or non supporter reads it. Minds are set. I figured out the reason I am on it so much, at least my rational is I do not have any other English-speaking contacts, news, social interaction, outlet. I thought about it for a while as my platform for speaking out against injustice, doing a low key priest vow fulfilment thing. That is pretty much useless, everyone’s mind is set. My world is mostly Japanese. I can not even lose myself in Sci Fi TV any more my underground TV has been cut off.  FB gives me the chance to interact with others in English. Those that think like me, and even those who do not and some of who are my friends and I respect . I see the logic of their view, I think they are partly right-on, but do not think they see mine. On the other hand, those who do not understand “my truth”, make me sad, I feel like they have lost their heart way, and I can do nothing, they believe in what is happening in the States is the right way. I believe differently, maybe it is me who is wrong. I am just lost in some Hippie, zen priest fantasy about what should be real life and truth. Time will tell and it useless to argue about it, especially on-line and with strangers, jhezze! Either way I am tired. I wonder if Google + is this way as well? I need to check into them again. I understand the world is not a fun place right now, I would like to find a place that is more fun, much less drama. Yeah I know, that is was meditation is for. I would not call meditation fun though. Sui Zen is the closest to that.

Anyway that aside, the total focus on money, and profits at all costs, especially to environment and our humanity, other life forms, the separation of people, and playing one against the other, hate and mistrust on both sides, and selective truths is not going to end well. Both side have their version of truths. Oh well, the great Spirit, the Universe, God, Tao is in charge. I am just along for the ride. I am really tired of it all…all is impermanent. I have to detach better, part of my living Zen challenge. Zen is not just sitting at a wall not thinking, it is how we interact with others, all forms of life, their suffering is our suffering. Our Oceans are suffering from our waste, this is coming back to us in our food. The Air is suffering from our waste, this is also coming back to us in poor health and really messed up weather patterns. We all are a part of everything, not above it…Amitoufo

Now back to my regular programing schedule…

A musical interlude…

 

A musical interlude…and typhoon break

A typhoon just passed. It was the largest they say in 25 yrs! It was intense. It is the first time since I been here that we lost power. I am writing this powerless on the iPad. Good I have some emergency things on hand. More on this later

Kyudo has been fairly intense on my mind with about two-week to go. I do not feel ready. However there is other to life than kyudo Shinsa. I di have an added pleasure moment at Kyudo, an old classmate from Ca came to shoot with me at the Dojo. It was sort of nice to chat a bit about kyudo in English of a change.
I had my first teaching Japanese boating practical exam class. However that does not go here, it is the “by sea” blog. Nothing really interesting about it. 
Then I had the spot at the Snafkin by the Sea concert. This is my third year doing it and the first year since the Snafkin Master pass away. I was not at all nervous about doing it. I knew many of the others performing. I had one of my favorite keyboard players, backing me and a percussionist he recommended. So I would not use my drum machine. I opted to go with a more organic sound. Also using my acoustic Bass rather than the electric. Even though the keyboard was electric, the overall sound was different from my regular “live house” sound.
I had a music plan of three songs. I have been working on this idea of doing Summertime, with the shakuhachi and my friend playing Shamisen. Also I would sing a version in English she would do one in Japanese. We had one practice session, but she did not play shamisen, she wanted to work on the vocal. Sigh… it went well. It sounded as I wanted. My next two songs, just the percussionist, keyboard and me. A small club warm sound, bluzy, and jazzy, with a touch of funk.
Day of the show, there was some talk of rain, but other than being hot it was clear. There was not a lot of people but some, plus folks walking by up and down the beach. It was going to be long day. I was to go on at 12:20, and wait around for the ending to do a group song together at 5:00. Sigh…ok agreed as it was sort of a memorial for the late club master.
I had a fairly large breakfast and did not except to eat again until dinner. There would be no food there I could eat. I took along a small terms bottle with some ice water and a shot or two of Shochu. At the show I added some French Orange soda. I had a pretty good drink to sip on during the day.
The show went pretty good. I was really disappointed my friend did not play shamisen much very little and very soft. I had a feeling when she was ready to not play at all when she thought we did not have enough mics. I know now not to ask he again to play. She I not comfortable. E
Ben th ugh she plays a lot with her group and singing Okinawa songs. I think she feels it is too complex with my style. Anyway I will need to find another player if I want to use that sound live. I can always track It into my looper myself for solo work.
The song we did “Summertime” went pretty good. People liked it. I had trouble playing my Shakuhachi! It was a struggle at times. My mouth was dry, the wind was blowing. The wind can interfere with blowing across the flute. Between the two I missed getting notes out, but, I do not think many , if any could tell sometimes the shakuhachi has a very breathy sound. Also I know how to cover well, and just kelp on going like it is supposed to be that way. I played the vid, someone made of the song, for sensei. He said you did well because you are a musician. He also recommended that I should get a different Shakuhachi for this playing. I was using my traditional one, which is not made for the type of playing I did. 

The other two songs, went better, I was more in my element and warmed up at this point. Here are a couple of links if interested in samples.

Here my train Coming ( full version)

Summertime ( cut )

If you want me to stay ( cut )

Next up this is a busy week. I have two different gigs with two different bands. Really only somewhat different. The keyboard player and I play together in other bands. We are both doing songs we already mostly know. I am trying something a little different with one band, but not that far off from what the band sound is, but still added my sound “mark”. It will be fun. I have practice then week with both bands. This is how professional minded players do, they want to practice and sound good, not just have fun.
Then…I have a week to really focus on Kyudo. I am pretty set on using the Bamboo bow. As for me, I am still not feeling ready. However I will do my best. That is all one can ever do. If it does not work, and get knocked down. Then stand again, and get stronger…yosh!
The typhoon…
It has passéd on as I write this. It sort of feels like a disaster area. People are out on my street, the few that are here, talking. Sirens going off in the back ground. Someone making pubic announcements, which I can not understand. Sort of weird feeling. I see nor hear anyone from my hood in a panic or packing to leaving, so I will just chill. There are no lights, I have some battery-powered lights and a charge on my phone, and a laptop. I will do stuff until dark, practice some then. Watch a movie on the laptop, with a glass of wine then go to bed. Then deal with aftermath tomorrow morning, then maybe go to Kyudo…Amitoufo

弓道 -Shots in the dark


The story So far…
It is early late night. I just came in from Kyudo practice. Mato practice out in the bamboo mantis hidden dojo. There is enough light to see, but do not really need to see much. It is more about feel of the form when doing mato training. Working the form, checking the crosses and the angles, the hand grip, shoulders tension in the right place, relaxed in the right place. Internal Work!
 
 
I spent most of the earlier evening and day studying the Manual. Working on the possible questions. It is all balance everywhere not only in the shooting, but the study. There is paperwork involved. Well a paper test. I made , working a list and handwriting the answers. Handwriting is weird when not doing it often. It is also a form of kyudo training, forming the letters so even though it is just me reading the letters should be neat at least readable. Finding a good angle to write, holding the pen, there is no conscious breath to deal with or stance, but there is posture. Anyway, yeah I am putting in the time. Will it be enough, no telling. 
 
I am back to rethinking about which bow to use. The feel of power with the Bamglass is kind of nice, but with the bamboo, I can really focus on my form and everything as it should be and not fight, at least put least effort into holding the bow and the resistance of keeping it open. I still think practicing with the heavier one is good, but maybe the lighter bamboo is the way to go for the Shinsa. I have another two weeks or so to think on it.
 
A quiet practice the other day. I did not go to the kimono class as I had my first students in the powerboat training school ( yay ). I went to kyudo afterward. It took some mental effort to do after getting up early to go teach. However, yeah that is what training and discipline is about. Doing what needs to be done, even when you do not feel like it. So I shot, I hit my first shot then none after that for a while. After the end of a three hour session I was at 30 something percent. Nothing to write home about. Oh well, more practice. The journey is the goal.
 
One of my other Sensei was there. I am fortunate to have several that have taken an interest in my progress. This one helped me with my tenouchi last time I saw him. Since then I have been trying to do as he said and do as I interpreted it from another sensei. I did not think I was doing just as he said, just sort of. I guess it worked because he said I was doing it right now, or at least much better. I guess it was a matter of where my focus was and angle. This time he corrected my right arm angle. Saying my arm , elbow should not be so vertical. Turn the hand and wrist yes, but arm and elbow should be more horizontal, so at Hanari to Zashin my hand and arm travel horizontal along the same path as the arrow, I should also but more energy “Ki” into extending in both direction, do not let my right hand /arm die, get lazy in travel. It should also have some snap! Yeah Kyudo is more difficult than Shakuhachi. It is so complex, at least at the level I am.
 
Anyway, the beat goes on…the reality drama: As the bow turns.