弓道 – A bit of Kyudo


A touch of Kyudo
Ok so shoot me this is not about working blue collar! coming soon… Meanwhile.
It is/was Tues, traditionally Kimono day at the Kyudojo. There was part of me that did no feel like going. Partly tire from the heat and working the day before, partly being lazy, there is some travel envolved, anyway, I knew that when one is feeling like that the best thing to do is just just do it. One usually gets an extra benefit, the universe seems to work that way. Maybe a balancing thing to the extra effort to get there, or do that thing. The universe, balance is it’s thing. 
 
Yeah , so off I go to Kyudo. Having a practice means discipline if one wants to advance. I want my name moved up in the member board at the dojo. We were speaking about the board and placement today. At least some of us were, I mostly listened and tried to figure out what was going on until I had enough, lost interest and did some shooting. 
Sorry jumped ahead
 
Ummm yeah , I went to Kyudo and met one of my buds a the front desk. She told me some things about the class today , most of which I not understand but the gist of it was there was no formal class today, because of several reasons, all of which meant to me no class…just practice. Because some of the things she said I did not get I kept my eyes and ears open , prepared to roll with whatever. I went upstairs to the dojo with her, passing some Senseis that I thought she, my bu said were not going to be there or busy. Ok , roll with it mode engaged. 
 
I entered the ojo and did my greetings and started to get ready to shoot. As I was doing so I heard talk of class today. People counted, some more talk, and then we all decked it was going to be Dogi wear and solo practice. Ok cool, with me. I wanted some time to just shoot.
 
We all had at it. We chatted, practiced and chatted. At one of these chats was the ranking name board discussion. It is interesting, I get very little of what is being said, but enough so I can follow some conversations, but everyone speaks to me like I understand and I am part of all that goes on, not the gaijin. I have heard several times over my time here, something about oh, Yeah, I forgot you are not Japanese. Then try to explain what they said. I dislike getting them to stop talking, because they are saying something I do not understand, because it stops the flow of what is happening. Unless I really can not get what they are saying and it is something I have to say beside yes or no. I need to go…eh??? And then comes tying to explain it in Englishanese. The adventure! Interestingly at some point I get it! I find it all most interesting to be where I am and flash-on where I am from. What a long strange trip it’s been.
 
So yeah, while we are chatting the main Sensei comes in. I have not seen him in awhile. I greet him and say long time no see. He says ohhh, you are still practicing, or here or something like that. Another bud of mine says, with a laugh, yes of course he is always here with us. Everyone chuckled, I did not get a few words said, as I was walking away as was Sensei.
 
So we all practiced, chatted, etc. Two of the sensei that uasally run things and that I passed in the hall, came back in after awhile. One, the Kaicho started shootings and helping people. After a while of shooting the head Sensei comes out and watches me shoot. He is not please but not displeased, I get a few corrections. He says he will check me again before I leave afte he finishes what he doing in the back. I say ok thank you, an settle in for more practice. I was not exspecting this, it is good, but surprising. I had tried coming in a few times when I thought he was there , but he was not. He is a detail orientated guy, beside being the head of the Kishiwada chapter of the Renmei. He is the one that signs my papers to go to a Shinsa. So it was good to have him check me. 
 
I practiced, he came back, just before I was ready to leave, after extending my practice time to three hours instead of two. I got a correction, adjustment on my daisan, the final section of my hikiwaki, tenonuchi, right elbow in Kai, yumi placement on my knee and why, the correct fingers to use to knock the ya string. A lot of small things, nothing to help my hitting , but I have learned that yes it does, just not right away, but it will all come together, I just need to listen and make the correction. A Zen master once told me, there are times when things happen, but they show up later. I am certain at some point all will click into place with my shooting, and I will ascend to the next Plateau and I will have my “act” all together. 
 
After Sensei gave me my second check, he said something I understood to mean it takes some time to get corrrect. I replied little by little, he nodded yes.
 
“It matters not how many times you get knocked down, it matters how many times you get up”…Brown Buddha
 
It turned out to be an excellent day, I got to practice, I got some needed corrections on my Kyudo, I got of the house, fresh air and walked. Amitoufo
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Kimono day


Kimono day
On Tuesdays we have Kimono dress day at the dojo. We practice taihai in Kimonos, at least those with the rank. Sandan and above. I went today it was a good day. I usually always learn something some small detail I had skipped before or I not know. Even if I am not shooting well my TaiHai is improving, by the time I test again I will at least have that part pretty down. 
Besides the learning it is a good time to connect with my dojo mates.
We split into groups, one group shoots the others watches and tells what they notice in error afterwards. Everyone gets a chance at speaking. That is it self is a learning experience. It is usually a challenge for me to understand what I am being corrected on, but it works out, surprisingly. Sometimes it takes a bit of extra effort for someone to explain. Sometimes I do not get the words, so it is shown what I am doing in error. Actually most times I do not get the words, but I catch a few and along with some motions I figure out what it being said.

In the down time or breaks in between there is other talk. Today a couple of ladies and I worked out who is age wise older, senpai and when our birthdays are. Nothing to do with anything just chatting.

Another topic today was earthquakes since I showed them a picture of me practicing Shakuhachi yesterday with a helmet on as a Face book picture joke. and what is the English word for it. It was cute hearing them try to say it. They would say earthquick. No no I said, and wrote it down. Quake Like cake not quick. We laughed at it all but they got it in the end.
One main tip I got today was when a sensei was watching me shoot, which is slowly improving. He said I am still dropping my arms, I said that is a big issue for me. he watched, then said keep the image in your mind of arms staying parallel to the floor. That helped. I will work on that more.My hit average when up again today. I am starting to feel I may have a chance in Sept. Although chance or not I will give it a shot for learning purposes, unless I start doing really bad again. Amitoufo
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Kyudo , rainy day musing


Musings on a rainy day

 
I am off today, due to the rain, nice my back needs some more down time. There was a big earthquake this morning, so not a run of the mill start. My plan was and still is to settle down in my studio with tea and catch up on some writings…
Yesterday I went to Kyudo practice. I had planned on doing some Komuso practice afterwards, but that did not work out. Which I wrote about on the Komuso blog. As for Kyudo, I have been working more t home with the Makiwara to cement things into my “bones” . I had a revelation last week at the Kimono class about my shooting. Actually my stance not my shooting, if I was to knit pick. Posture, jumongi. I was noticing I was not turning fully perpendicular to the mato, with my upper body. I did not have a chance to fully test the thought, but I did have a chance yesterday. 
 
I had originally planned for a two-hour practice, then go out for my Buddhist Komuso practice, but I cut it down to an hour o as not to tart too late. Which tuned out to be pointless. So yeah, I got in some practice , it did make a difference. I got on the first shot, and just missed on the second. 
I still need some adjustment and other work , because I missed a lot after that. I think I slacked off on other points. Because towards the end when I really focus on every detail I improved. The Kaicho gave me a quick check over on his way out , on my last shot. It hit he said I need to keep my head back more and raise my chest. Other wise good. 
 
The week before at Kimono practice. I was corrected on some Tai Hai points. Not lifting heels off the floor when walking backward to Honza from Shai, placing my Yumi on the outside on my knee cap not the inside, leaning the yumi slightly outward when turning out of the Kimono disrobe part. “Hadanugi “. Plus some other small points, nothing to do with shooting but having to do with proper form. So still getting bit by bit instructions. Taking them in, logging, implementing, the process continues. 
 
When starting back to for the summer, I should be able to return to going to the dojo twice a week now, without hearing static from the minister of finance. I am pretty certain I will attend the next Shinsa in September at my home dojo. Feeling ready or not, taking it as part of practice. Like one is supposed to approach doing meditation, the goal is doing it, not the result.

弓道 – Reset to Zero

Back to Zero

 
Sigh, as has been the case time after time I am back to Zero with Kyudo. ok, so maybe not “zero” but it feels like it. I thought I was making some improvement, in the big picture I am. It is said something like one can not cure and illness until the cause is known. I may have at least a clue what my current issues are. 
 
I went into practice the other day, and my new adopted Sensei was there. I say adopted, because the week before when asked who was my sensei by a sempai he spoke up. He does always come and help me when he and I are there together. I like him he is kind. I have always felt like my Sensei is Watase Sensei the lead sensei. Even though I rarely see him, and also Yamashita Sensei, as he was my intro from Nogami Sensei who passed away. I feel closer to Yamashita Sensei, but he is not always there and only comes certain times which are not set. Watase Sensei can be found on a certain day and time…mostly. He is also the one who signs for me to take Shinsa. I suppose it does not matter, so moving on…
 
So I had thought part of my problem, a big part was that I was not understanding everything. Which may still be, some of the case . However I am now leaning toward it is a physical issue. My shoulders are not loose enough. I keep getting told to drop my shoulders. In Daisan do not raise my shoulders, when in ready position move my elbow forward but not my shoulder. Try as I may I can not comply enough. I am trying but not succeeding. ( There is not try , do or do not. I am doing not!!) I watch the Sensei and his shoulders are much looser he has a greater range of motion. I do not know if I need more stretching or it is just a physical body structure issue. I recall when I was young my mother use to tell me a lot, pull your shoulders back! Maybe I was physically unable to do any more than it was. Not deformed, just different. Perhaps if I had worked at it then it would be better now. I am I believe now too old to reshape my bone structure. Pretty certain. I will continue to attempt to succeed but I may have to make compensation somewhere else.
 
Yesterday The Kaicho came over to me whilst I was shooting and I told him my ya always go just to the right of the target. Sometime they go correct, but when it happens it because I am doing something with my right arm they tell me not to do. Which is to pull my elbow back to far. As in to my rear, not to my side out away fm me opposite the target. Kaicho watched me shoot and said my left shoulder is to far forward when in Kai. He had me shoot again and corrected me as I held position and released. It went straight. However I did aim more to the left than I had been. 
 
What I am saying is I read about the aiming point, half-moon , whole moon thing. I pretty much line my ya tip up with the target, not the whole or half-moon thing. When I asked m from the tip, my hit count goes up. However sometimes the ya goes too far to the left of the Target. 
 
Maybe I should stick with the way that gets the most hits and not listen to when the tell me to do something different, however I feel if I do that I am just being a “target who’re” is the term used.
 
Sigh.
 
I head reports from the recent big Shinsa in Tokyo. There are people who shot for Yondan and only hit one, but still passed! Crap! That throws off the theory about testing in Japan is harder. Someone speculated that it was because there was a seminar just before the Shinsa and the judges got to see how the person shot regularly. 
 
Oh well, back to the drawing board, or this case the mato/ Makiwara

弓道 – One step back


One step back…

 
The weather was finally spring like together, great. I went to the flea market at the temple I played at recently. It was the most crowded I have seen. I also the most gaijin I have ever seen at these. I was hoping to see a acquaintance of mine. I a local monk who is usually there begging. I wanted to ask him some advice on where I could play without stepping on some other monk’s toes there. Alas he was not there. Oh well. I went through the markers anyway as I needed a couple of things and wanted to check out for a couple of others. I did not buy much, a couple of beads and a cord to make a cleaning cloth for some shakuhachi, some nuts, and some wooden prayer beads.

Afterward I went to Kyudo. There is all the testing coming up in Kyoto soon, so there were several sensei there, including my favorite, Yamashita sensei. I had planned on just practicing, but of course with the sensei there that went out the window. Still it was good, I got a lesson. It threw all that I thought I was finally getting out the window. Sort of.

 
I got my right arm draw and placement corrected. It totally changed my hitting from ok, to it sucks! However sensei was pleased with the adjustment. I guess that I more important. So when I finally get to Shinsa again I will do well, and the next step will be easier. He also told me O was knocking my ya wrong. Bring the ya to the sting, not the other way around. As fo my draw, I think I finally got it , at least I understand what I am supposed to be doing.
 
I wonder does anyone understand how difficult it is to follow things in a language you do not fully understand. Sensei is good at explaining, and he ok’d what I was doing afterwards, even though I was not hitting. So I have to adjust my sighting again to off set the new positioning of my right arm and shoulder. It is surprising how much of a big difference it makes with a small change how the arrow travels.
 
I will be putting off the upcoming Shinsa in June, until Sept. oh well. Like I have been saying. It really only matters to me. Before Yondan there is practice, after Yondan there is practice.
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弓道 – An arrow in flight


 
I went to RaeKai today. A few days ago I went into practice. I had hope to just practice. I had not seen Watashe Sensei in a while there on Thursdays. That was his regular time but he had been out. I went in on Thus. Just hoping to practice. I was starting to get a fix on things, having Sensei watching and adjust is good, but really confuses me at times.
 
So yeah of course he was there this Thursday. He and another sensei who is very helpful to me, but always checking me, adjusting. It is great but at the same time frustrating! Sadness within Joy Zen, sort of thing. Yeah, good to get correction and that someone cares, but bad for my just want to practice mode. Oh well life is change, roll with it.
 
Sensei did not stay long, neither did. I got my adjusts and got to practice so it was all good. My score sucked of course, but it is not about that, right!
So I got in some just practice time which was nice. It also confirms that some of new things I have been doing are correct. So I am in the right path! Yatta!
Tenouchi is a problem, I am lacking spin. I am hitting in a good spot off the mato, that if I have some spin that would not happen. It would hit I believe. Anyway, yeah more practice…and more after that.
 
I went a Rae Kai today it was fun. I had not been in a while , seemed like longer but I know I was just at something or another recently. No matter. I was there for a practice session, not to try to win. Just a progress check of sorts.
It was to see good some people, a couple of my regular buds were not there. It happens, life is like that. It was a good checking platform for me. I did not do great, or even good, but, I did not suck … too bad. Hahaha.
 
I have been studying Shakuhachi seriously over the last 3 yrs, from time to time I wonder which is more difficult? At this point I would at Kyudo, with out a doubt. With shakuhachi there is breath, fingering, lip aperture . With Kyudo there is everything , body, breath, mind, although I could break it all down to the base for both Body, breath , mind. “The body”, in Kyudo is much more vast. Also If one thing, shoulder, elbow, waist, etc are wrong, they are all wrong!
 
So Kyudo today was, ok. I again got to see my faults, and weakness. Always a good thing, when one wants to progress, but not to good for the ego. So more much training, which is nothing I did not expect. The next Shinsa is in June, maybe maybe maybe, I will give it a shot, just because I can, for practice…Perhaps Sept at my home dojo is better. No matter right now. I will see how things unfold over the next month. Then I will know. At least I feel I am making some progress. I am seeing that the more I am in the aligned position with everything, not just yumi, ya, arms, back, shoulders, etc, the better the shot is. I figured out something with my back the other day, when carrying my bass, the arch, the shoulder compress that is needed when shooting. The weight was starting to get to my back, but if I realigned everything so the the bones structure is supporting itself, the weight of the Bass is taken up by the “Bones” not the muscles, like what it says the Kyudohon how a shot should be done. Breath and alignment, there is the same thing in Shakuhachi, and Kung Fu. More subtle in Shakuhachi, but there and important, especially the breath part.
 
In Aug we will have been in this area for five years. Our rent is being raised! Not good, but the point is , it just hit me I have been training at this Dojo for 5 yrs! I really should not judge or try to gauge my progress on a time table and just do it. On another note, yeah , no won’t I feel so comfortable with some of the people at the dojo and them with me.
 
I was going to get some where with all this , but the shouchu has kicked, and L Z was just here in my studio, talking about perhaps moving to another apt, instead of this house. Sigh, impermanence is life.
 
I have pretty much succeeded with my goals with the shakuhachi. At the least the main part of it and connecting with my Ch’an training. Next it is just a matter of continued practice and improving. Shakuhachi, has ranks “dans” like kyudo, judo, karate, etc. I am not interested in getting one. I have no desire to teach, my Sensei although well-known does’ not have a masters “rank” title, either. My goals for playing now, are just to play better.
 
I have to keep that in my head with Kyudo, it is not about the destination, the prize. It is about shooting well. Playing as A Komuso is not about collecting donations, but playing well for the people, making the connection Heart to heart. Shooting the ya with the “right” spirit. The “right” is a Buddhist term, “the right”, something is a board term. For Kyudo it would mean, mind, body, breath and heart aligned.
 
My blog has been quiet about Kyudo, for a while. Not because I have stopped, but because I am just working at it. Not talking about working at it, working at it. Putting the effort into the action not the words. What a world we would have if that was more common. It is the Ch’an, do, don’t talk, experience the moment (s).
 
 
This brings me to a brief side thought. I have heard about a Kyudoka in more Northern Japan, who is a Shakuhachi maker an ones Kyudo. It would be interesting in hearing him speak on his views of the two arts. I have my friend an sempai who does Kyudo and plays Shakuhachi, but have never gotten a sense that he had a spiritual thought with either. Once I asked him about a connection, he touched a bit on breath harmony. The is another Kyudo Sensei there who also plays Shakuhachi and is a Sensei in Shorinyu Karate. He is a very serious type. Sometime I do not think he likes me. However he has offered help and correction from out of nowhere. He does not speak English at all, still I may try to engage him about Kyudo an Shakuhachi. What are his philosophical thoughts about them. Maybe I could figure out some of what he had to say, if anything. With visiting the maker, player, my wife would be there to translate. At the Kyudojo, I am on my own. Most people there from the way they talk to me think my Japanese is better than it is. Hahaha. It is more helpful for me I think to try to figure out what is being said, than to stop the conversation and bog it down with me tying to understand.
 
 
 
 

Progress in small steps

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!

 

Vietnam 2

 

Vietnam 2
We took a taxi to our new hotel. This was the place my wife was looking forward to staying at. The first place was a business hotel. It was nice and comfortable, this new place was uptown. She is into luxury resort style. For me clean sheets and heat or a/c is good. We arrived sort of early by a couple of hours or so, but our room was ready ! It was not the best of the best, low level luxury . It was nice. We had a poolside ocean view. Roomy very comfortable . She was happy. There is a saying when the wife is happy, everyone is happy!
There was no going out and around town for me, I was in. There was a Veggie restaurant I would have like to visit but it was too far to walk. Also another Buddhist temple, also too far to walk. So I sat on the lanai and chilled. I did some reading and practiced shakuhachi. LZ wanted to go to the beach side at happy hour. So we were off. It was a bit cool for me so I wore a jacket, which was a good plan. We got the beach spot she had reserved ahead of time. The drinks were good. The nachos I ordered sucked! SUCKED! Flavored Doritos, with sour cream and cheese, with guacamole. seriously sucked! I was disappointed oh well! I rolled with it. The drink was good. My first time ordering a Singapore Sling. We hung out there for a while until dark then headed back to the room.
While she was handling the charge I noticed there was a Tai Chi class the next day from a posted sign, and took some pictures. We did the usual resort thing for dinner then just chilled afterwards. Nothing really interesting, I read more and practiced.
The next day I was up early. It was setup by LZ as a free day, meaning I did not have to follow her. I could do whatever, as would she. I got up early to check out the Tai Chi class. There was none! I asked the help and he called for the instructor. So it was a private as needed class. Ok. I waited for the Shifu to show up and just sat on the beach. When he arrived I clarified there was no group class just a private session if I wanted. Nice if that was what I wanted. I explained through a translator that I was just hoping to join the class, as I also was a teacher. Ok, that was cleared up I said I could just practice on my own if there was no class. I asked what style he taught. My Tai Chi Mantis Grandmaster taught Tai Chi in Vietnam for many years. I was sort of hopeful that is what he, this Shifu taught, I could use a review on that . No he taught Yang. I said thank you, I would just practice alone. We gave each other the traditional salute and he left. I found a quiet spot did some Zazen and then just went through a couple of Tai Chi sets and Hsing Yi, before gong back to the room.
The rest of the day was pretty quiet, reading, shakuhachi. Lunch, then dinner. Chilling. In the evening we went to the main lounge and sat. There was another Japanese couple there, we did not talk, I just heard them speaking. I did say something when we were leaving. The guy came over and looked at an art piece I was checking out and told LZ about. It was a couple of bike rims with paper cranes. The guy came over to check it out when I made a big deal of it to LZ. I said amazing ne! In Japanese. He responded hai and that was it. Not very friendly, oh well.
The next day I repeated the scene but just on my own. Took more pictures, practiced, walked in the beach barefooted. That was nice. It reminded me of an article I had recently read about people needing to connect more barefooted to the earth. It had been a while since I did that, so it was very nice. I could feel the “Chi” of the earth. The day wrapped up and we checked out and headed for the airport.
Once checked in we did a little gift shopping for a couple of people, including my Kyudo classmates, candy. The stores in the States that have Chinese owners are usually not friendly, almost rude. Very unlike Japanese store owners or even just personnel. The Vietnamese working in these shops were like that. Not kind, not rude, but close to it. Mostly ignored you other than following you around. LZ also noticed it. So it was not just me. Right at the gate there were a couple of shops. While waiting I checked them out as well even though we had purchased the gifts we needed. The personnel were the same…distant. All but one store I went in. The woman was helpful friendly and spoke English. There was a couple of things I saw I wanted to get. One of which was also at another shop next door, a little cheaper. However I went and purchased it from the polite woman. I told her I was buying from her because she was kind. She thanked me. We chatted a little while and she helped me with an issue with paying. Turns out it was the store’s machine not my problem. Anyway it got worked out. I left with a good impression. The plane started loading, I made a dash to the toilet just in case. When I got back LZ was standing at the gate ready to check in. I rush up to the check-in and a guard in the funky military color uniform stops me asks for my passport. He had seen me, as I had seen him earlier. I just showed it to him and said nothing . I was given the ok and went to check on to the plane. I did not see him do that to others getting in line, oh well. Normal stuff for a person of color, roll with it. Vietnam over all was ok. I liked the weather while there. The people staff at the hotels were nice, of course. The people at the restaurants I went to were nice enough. The regular people that I encountered were nice enough. Would I go back? no. No desire, once was enough. I liked Taiwan better, the food was much, much better and there is more things of interest for me. I was surprised how, any Buddhist temples there were in Vietnam for a communist country. I was even asked on the visa application what religion I was. That was different I guess. However I have never needed a Visa before, so who knows. Anyway. It was a pleasant trip over all. I like Japan better and the women are cuter. I am grateful I got to see Vietnam and not have to carry a gun and shoot at people or visa versa, to do so.

弓道 – Hatsukai 2018

 

Hatsukai – 2018

 
This is my 4th Hatsukai, I believe, if my count is correct. This year there was a new years gift exchange, of sorts. Everyone joining the Hasukai this year was suppose to bring in a gift of more than 1,000 yen ( $10) to give away. Nice idea, it was just our club, so it was sort of intimint.
 
It was a fairly cold day, but not too bad. If I say it, it true. There is a sailing expression, no bad weather, just bad clothes. So I was dressed for Kyudo, and keeping that thought of being ready I had on several layers of understuff, then silks, for outside travel I had my big long coat. Socks inside my tabbies, and long johns legs were long enough to cover my feet to the toes. Yeah! I was ready, freddy.
 
I arrived a little before the 1:00 pm start, and did my New Years geetings and got in a couple of shots before things started. Now after a few years of these things I can follow along easy enough even though sometimes, well most times I do not know what is going on. I just roll with it. This times was not different. I thought I knew what was happening at times, like the start, but I am corrected and adjust my sails.
 
After everyone is signed in and ready there is the opening ceramony and annocement stuff. Then a “Sharei” of some sort, then round of shinsa shooting then the taikai rounds. I fall into my regular routine, I watch I shoot, I take photos, repeat.
 
My first two shots missed, maybe I hit one, of the set of four, that followed. Maybe two, lost track. When I was warming up, Watase Sensei, I could feel watching me. As I was leaving the floor , he intercepts me and give me a correction on not drawing enough right out of DaiSai, I was cutting to short. Arigatou I saw and bow. I ask is my elbow height arch any better? He shook his head, said something I did not know but “knew” it meant no! He laughed, as did I as I bowed and turned off the floor.
 
Later after my Tai Kai round, Yamashita Sensei intercepts me and says. Good job! I say, eh?! He was talking about a correction, adjustment he had given me last time I shot with him. It is a blessing to have these Sensei caring for my progress, even though not in a formal class. That is real concern for the student and honoring the practice from the heart.
 
Ok, so moving on, things started warping up we are down to final shooting. Small targets, a single arrow per turn. I got in three shots, all misses. I did not care, I was in a it’s a practice mode. For some reason even though small than a regular mato, I expect the good shooter to make quick meals of this, but no, it was taking some time even for the good shooters. I was up again soon. Ahh, yes, it was taking shorter time between rounds becaus eit was only our dojo there not several for the area. Anyway…I digress. I am up again, I shot and bam, I get a hit. Lucky, it was a causal event, and subconcously I knew that, so when I hit I put up both hands, yatta! Thoses that saw smiled.
I could not help but smile as left the floor… my posse’ was happy for me! So was I. My day was made. I had a “feeling” it was the day I was going to hit one of those mato. Yatta!
Although it was not really skill, more of a calulated luck shot. Even still though, it is a sign I am improving, it when mostly where I planned. I should be ready by the summer to make my bid to breath the air of Yon-dan altitude 🙂
 
So yeah, it was good start to a new year of Kyudo.
 
 
*Next up the new band “Sieki”
 
 

弓道 – 108 ya – 2018 yr – Scent of the Dog


108 ya – 2018

 
As I have been doing for the last several years, I shoot 108 arrows for the new year, same as the Buddhist ringing a bell/gong 108 times…cerimony. A friend started it I have taken on the training. 
I was set this as in the past to do my shots here at the Bamboo Mantis Hidden Makiwara Kyudojo. 
Out of nowhere a sensei, who I am friends with and have played music with, he asks if I wanted to come to his dojo to join a New Year shooting. It took me a while to get all the details correct and figured out. 
Sempai’s (the sensei) dojo is the one kyudojo that I tried to join when first in this area. They said no, after telling me yes, and me showing up, changing and ready to shoot. Then they dropped the no bomb. I was told that the club owner said no new members. I am thinking hmmm yeah right…but let it go. Still I was bummed out!
 
I was told I could go to Kishiwada, which I did and I am pleased that that it worked. Trusting the force to provide for my best. As it turns out several of the Senseis and a Sempai that help me at Kishiwada are from this other dojo. I have heard on other times that the story is indeed true and not a “me” issue. Ok, onward, so this Kyudojo is connected to a Shinto Temple. So this turns out to be a local New Year event. The dojo opens, we shoot, there is a ceremony of some sort, then the windows of the dojo are opened so that the locals that come to tthe shrine to pray for the new year can also watch us do Kyudo. I was told this was to be an all night thing basiclly. Someone give me a ride home. There were a couple of other people from Kishiwada going as well. Cool I thought. After I got all the infor sorted out, I was all in.
 
Now there were some things I still did not know, but i would just go with it and see. I knew the basics, I show up, I can shoot, dress really warm, there will be something hot served, there is a cerimony, do not worry about the train home. I was set.
 
I planned for a full day, a long full day. I figured to do my 108 at home since I had no idea how much I could shoot or how long it would take taking turns, getting the ya, etc. Where they also doing some version of the 108? Hmmm. Ok, i figured, whatever this is a training day a, purifying day. First off some Zazen, and then breakfast. Next out for some physical Chan, and some tea. I am ready to start now. I figured to cruise through this, I the full day to do this, so I would pace myself. I did a four sets of 5 before taking a tea break. This then back at it. This time going just a point past halfway. Break time.
 
I took a lunch, some tea, FB’d a bit. I notice now, my tenouchi hand is hurting. I had been griping wrong, to tight maybe, it is right where, just below a callous from work is located. It is like a little pebble in your shoe…
So yeah, now it is hurting, there is a new little bluster, and torn open on my palm. Warrior training spirit says ” there is no stopping until finished, deal with it”. After some thinking, I had a pair of gloves I was going to use for komuso playing when it was cold. The finger tips are cut off. I dug these out and tried on the left glove. Perfect, white cotton, l with just enough cushion. I tried it out it worked so. i went back to practice.
 
I shoot for about 5 min before it started to rain. Wow, I am thinking, the force is testing my resolve. It was not raining hard. I continued, since my yumi is fiberglass and bamboo. Weather is not and issue. Great I was able to have the blessing of two Yumi, bamboo and hybrid-glass. It rain little on and off through my next set of shots. During my next tea break, the weather app said the rain would be fully done about now.
 
Yes after my break the rain was no more. I continued, shoulder and chest starting to feel the strain now, still, I pushed. I tried to stay focused , a mindful practice, attention to each detail of each shot, not just shooting for the numbers. Kishi sensei says don’t just play your shakuhachi to make sounds , notes, make the note have the best quality. As I neared the end of my 108, I had another break pre-planned , bit decided to press on and just do it. I stopped when I had completed 106 shots. I figured no matter how many people there was at the dojo tonight, or the order of things, I would have time to have at least two or three sets of shoots. I would wear the glove, I would try to anyway. It was plain white, this was not a class, so it should be ok, I thought. I will removed it if I have too. Another reason to do most of my shooting at the makiwara, no one tells me how to dress.
 
So for the most part I was finished my 108. I got things organized for the evening. A shower, some food, a bit of sake, then practiced some “Suizen”. It was a great day so far. In the back of mind I was thinking about what to expect tonight at the dojo. Really the main concern was how cold would it be? I was dressed for some what I thought would be fairly serious, at least for me, I am a cold weather wimp. I had on maybe for or five layers of tops, silk, and cold weather poly things, plus leg’ns . My main concern would be for my head, with no hair. I had a silk kimono, and coat, we were going to be inside, so that part should be ok.
 
I arrived early to the shrine, way early. I walked around, did few New Years prayers, took pictures…facebk’d, killed time.
 
Finally someone arrived. I did not know him, he asked if i was from Kishiwada. Shocked I thought everyone knew that. Maybe just checking. He made a small joke about me being early. I did know him so I continue to wait outside while he opened up the dojo. Short while later my dojomates showed up. I went in with them. Slowly others arrived, we all settled in as they lite the heaters, and setup the bean soup, made ready the yumi and ya, everything set to shoot.
 
Little by little they started, there was nothing official happening everyone just went up and shot. All was very relaxed, many sat by the heaters chatting and staying warm. Little by little things got more organized and more started shooting.
 
Near 11:30 we were instructed to go to the next building, to where the ceremony would take place. We all went into the main temple, the Shinto priest where all ready. We all had a seat on small folding stools, no kneeling. That was a relief, my knees could not have taken it. Ok, i wanted to take some photos but I thought that would be not cool. I resisted! There was a little bit of chanting, incense, bowing, usual stuff. However short and fairly simple. The priest blessed the group everyone bowed and it was done. Everyone went back to the Dojo. I got a few photos outside.
 
Once back in the dojo, the sweet bean soup was ready. Mochi was added a short wait and it was ready. Bowls were handed out. It was not to have something warm and sweet, perhaps a little too sweet, but it was still welcome and good! I had a second, but small helping.
 
Now people really started shooting in earnest , it was almost 12:00 now. I heard someone start the happy New year phase when it was midnight. Everyone said it to the group and continued to shoot. It was not a 108 shooting, just a New Year’s shoot. 
 
I made my final shots earlier and surprising hit, my last (108) and the first shot (109) of the year . Really surprised because i could not tell where my first arrow of the night went. Where I was off. My ya are black, it was dark, dim light by the mato, and my growing old man eyes issue. So I was focused on my position and alignment more than “seeing”. Those were the only hits for the night, I think I shot 5 times, three I needed for my count. My last shot for the night came just after midnight. I had thought earlier that I would change my string for the New Year. I had taken it off to adjust the tension, and it looked shabby in a couple of spots. Then I got lazy let it slide. I forgot about doing it
Just after finishing my home shots, when took some time to do SuiZen after the 106 shots. Anyway, yeah, the string broke, i had a spare, but since it was so late i just stopped. I was under the impression that something opened at 1:30 am. But what it was , the Dojo was closing at 1:30 am. So my string bit the dust at 12:40. I was done for the night. All worked out. Good I did most of my shooting at home for my counting goal. I couple of people asked about my glove, did I hurt myself, or what. i explained, they said ohh. My Sensei asked, when I told him I was screwing up my tenouchi in my practice. He laughed as did I .
 
My sempai came to me as everyone was packing, and said he would take me home. Argatou. It was a good experience. I am pretty sure the first Gaijing involved and attending.
 
So onward into the New Year. I am feeling this is the year I will go to the next level of understanding. I can feel some improvement when I shoot. I still have much to do, but I am finally feeling some progress. Year of The Dog will be successful for my Kyudo endeavors.