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.

 

Advertisements

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.
 

弓道 – Changes

 

Different day, still changes…

 
I was sort of worried about this…
Sat night, I go to the dojo. At the time I am going it usually the time many upper dans are there, and with the Shinsa near I thought it would be crowded. I was partly right. Some higher dans were there but not a great many as I had expected. Ok good. Still they were doing a Shari and I did not want the do that I wanted to just shoot. However I prepare for whatever, and prepared to be drafted!
 
My approach for the evening was a little different than usual, more meditative. I feel like I am on a mission and have to plan carefully the approach. I sat off to myself while changing, and did some stretching, and meditation. Preparing myself mentally for what was ahead. Part of this whole thing with the Shinsa is in the mind, settled and focused. One step at a time, one detail, then the next, piling them on like the points in building the vertical cross. I eased into the practice tonight. 
 
“Y” sensei was there. He is still my favorite and a feel a deeper connection with him, most likely because of our connection via, Nogame Sensei and I believe we are the same age. Y sensei is Nana dan now. I saw him talking to someone the other week explaining something about Kai, using closing the ceiling high glass windows for an example of using power, or settling into position for firmness. The windows are up high and we have to use a bamboo pole to reach the window. It is harder to close if you use and ungrounded power.
 
He is not always at Kishiwada, however whenever he is and I am he makes a point of helping me. Once I pass this hurdle I will have a lot of people to be grateful to for their assistance Tonight when I was making ready he said something, which I did nothing full understand. This was just in passing. For some reason my brain deciphered it to mean, do good in the Shinsa next month, pass so I can win some money. Ok I thought that is kind of a stretch but ok. But I just went yosh and did the fist pump. It must have been a close enough response. He seemed satisfied. I made ready to practice. 
 
When doing the Shari finished some their even started to packing up. Oh cool I thought, space. I grab my yumi and start with the Makiwara. Y sensei comes over and watches. I go through the points I have been working on. The shot feels ok. Sensei looks, and seems pleased, and a bit surrised he is nodding and saying good, good. I am like, ehhhh really!? I shoot again, another approval. Then he makes an adjustment. I thought oh, boy! It was not a big change but big enough. It was a little bit different, or finer than what I had just gotten a few days ago from W sensei. Y sensei is a higher rank, so I have to pay attention. What he was saying I do not need to have so much tension in my whole arm and hand, the left one. I thought oh ehhhh, that is how I was able to keep my arm from dropping. Y sensei wanted only tension to my left elbow, below that everything should be relaxed! Oh boy!
 
He showed me this drop/settle into the form motion and pushing from the shoulder and elbow. Even in Daisan my arm can be straight but not locked. When coming out of Daisan push and sink into both elbows. Hands, tenouchi should be relaxed. Easier said than done. I tried it a few times he says yes, like that. I am thinking ehhhh! Even hold that with Zanshin he says. Ehhhh! I am not hitting but he is pleased with the results. I am not because my arm started dropping again later. I needed to find the middle control, the fine tuning knob. Just enough tension to hold certain muscles, yet keep the rest relaxed. I worked on that. Slowly things started to click. I judged I am making some progress, because yes, when I set it up just so, the ya go straight. Many times short but straight. I needed to raise my sighting and NOT drop the arm. Slowly the times of hits increased. Even though I had a very very low average. Still it felt like some improvement was there.
 
I also brought in my bamboo Yumi to compare. Much easier to get into position, but dialing back the effort was needed and aim adjustments. I am leaning toward using the Bamglass bow. I sort of like the feel of power from the bow when I shoot, even thought it takes more effort to make the shot. I will consider more. On the other hand I like the lightness of the bamboo and the feel.
 
Everyone leaves, I am alone. The nice time to practice. It is sort dark the lights are minimum and only where needed. At the mato and at the shooting line. A new buddy shows up. She is just off work, I tease her a bit about it being Sat night and she is dateless, practicing kyudo the evening. She says it is pretty dark, is it ok? I say it is pleasant, after a while she agrees. It is cooler and one tends to shoot more from feeling than sight. The body seems to be more sensitive with less other distractions.
 
We shoot for a while longer maybe another 30 min then wrap it for the night. No one else shows up so we close shop and head off. Her to eat, me for home. It was a worthwhile evening to go. I have some conformation I am improving. Y sensei thinks I will do well, if not this time pass next time! I still have time to fine tune. We’ll see. I sort of have a sense, this will be the time. However I am tying to suppress the feeling so I will not be disappointed, no expectations, just doing my best in the moment. Yet at the same time, thinking, hmmm if I do not think firmly I can do this, I will not, but at the same time I should have no expectations, no attachments to success, that is the Zen way. Just do it, with no thought of the end, the prize. The mind thing is a big item to deal with in this process…being there, being focused, being unattached. Some people have a cow when saying Kyudo is Zen. When you understand the nature of Zen, then you understand Kyudo is very Zen. My Cha’n sensei says, everyday life is Zen. involved in doing, focused, but not attached to what is being done or the results.
 
…Amitoufo
 
…to be con’t
 

弓道 – The long and winding road cont…


The long and winding road. I am still not sure if I am making progress. Of course the Shinsa will tell me that for sure. When I think I am, I am not. However I am judging that on my hits. That is also just me. Yet, when testing it is said testing does not start until you make the two hits. So hitting is not the point, but until you do there is no point. None of the other stuff is considered until one makes the hits, in most cases. Catch 22??
Well for me, the struggle goes on. I went to the dojo the other day and the main Sensei was there. He worked with me as did the Kaicho. I needed to unlearn what I though I learned on my Tenouchi. I was given direction on that a few days earlier which was correct, but understood wrong by me. on top of a couple of other things understood wrong. Perhaps not wrong, but incorrectly, which still equals wrong. So the language thing has/is affecting me. On the other hand though there are others in the same place as me, doing this longer. Anyway it is not a race, still it helps my poor ego knowing that I am not completely at the rear alone. I have used something as a guide for if I am improving, that is where my Ya hit, or in most cases miss the Mato. I am able to keep the Ya straight in travel now, more often, my grouping is not off to the side, but right below the mato, if I was not dropping my arm they would have hit. With the new clearer info from W. Sensei I seem to be able to control that drop better. His info added to what others have told me. It is a combined effort from the senseis to help me succeed!

I have vowed to get some shooting time in daily, even if it is just one Ya. One “mindful” shot minimum when possible. If it is raining or a Typhoon, ok, I get a pass. There was a Typhoon last night, I was busy most of the day and it was late when I got in front of the Makiwara, but I did get in 3 shots! Just a constant review I think is helpful. The same when I was heavy driven to make headway with the Shakuhachi. I vowed to get in at least 5 min a day practice. It made a difference. This will also make a difference…somewhere.I have noticed the difference working with the heavy bow for longer periods rather than the Bamboo. The Bamboo is also smaller in my hand so feels more comfortable. I can really put things in to place more easy. Which brings back the question which bow to use for the Shinsa. I am learning toward to Bamboo for comfort, but the Bamglass has the power. It is sort of like doing Taiji or Shaolin practice. With Shaolin you can cover your mistakes with speed and power, with Taiji you have the time to correct there is no hiding behind speed and power. No illusion, there is only truth.

I am sure, pretty sure, that with improvements over the next two weeks I will be ready for the Shinsa and pass at least the next one in Nov. I wanted to pass this year. Even if I do not care for the Dojo in Nov, it gives me another shot of completing my goal for this year. Which in turn would complete my (old) goal for studying in Japan, reaching Yon-dan.

弓道 – Another day, another lesson


Another day another lesson.

I went to Kyudo today. I had planned on just practice. I hoped for just practice. However I did not expect that to happen. It got there it was somewhat quiet. I was able to get some practice time in without comments. I did ok. Not great but ok. Better than the last session. After a while I was at 35% hit rate. It was an improvement from the other day. There were even a couple of back to back hits. These are the best. Mostly I just wanted to take some time and analyze my shots.

I noticed another classmate, dojomate? Hmmm, also testing yet again for Yondan, since I have been at it. We have tested together before several times. She was getting some private one on one time from a sempai. I did not understand what he was saying to her. However I could see from his actions, he was telling her the same things I was working on. Lining up the upper body, turning and extending the left shoulder. A better ” jumonji”. So I am thinking yay! I am doing right, on the right path. Also if she is working on this and she speaks Japanese and has been doing this longer than me, maybe I am not doing so bad with my poor Japanese.

The results showed whenever I line up correctly. Bam hit! The thing is making sure I do it each and everytime. Even though it feels like I am doing wrong, the hit is right and even when I miss it is just below the mato or just above it!

I was into my practice. After a while several sensei show up. I thought oh no, there goes my peaceful practice. At one point I hear my name and “asked” to join a group to practice Shinsa Tai Hai. I did not really want to , but I could not say no. I joined, I was quite surprised when I made both hits, someone else was also, I heard an “oh”. Ok so I was feeling pretty good about my effort. I am on the right track. Then it happened. One of my several sensei gave me a correction, on my tenouchi! That is usually a death blow to my progress thoughts. Ok , I follow his advice, it was difficult, my thought was just do it! I noticed a few others, including sensei do not have their thumps this way either. Ok, I will just follow. My bow rotation improved greatly, however it is a very uncomfortable hold, grip for my hand. Yet, I figure I would just deal with it and get use to it!
One thing from today’s shooting I am confirmed I am doing the shoulder thing correctly. When I missed the mato, it was because my arm was dropping. My Grouping was all just below the mato, not just off to the side. That to me was progress! I need to work on not dropping my arm. Perhaps the advice today from sensei about my arm position , not bending it and tenouchi will help with that. I did notice my left arm seems to have more strength, bottom support when I do as he said along with the better rotation. So with some more work, maybe maybe maybe I have a chance of passing. Not getting my hopes up, just wishful thinking, backed with effort. Because wishing and hoping are not enough, with no effort!

Ok, back to the Tai Hai practice. It was a good thing I joined the group on the shot. I did hit both shots, but I made an error leaving the floor. It had been setup marked for the Shinsa, so it was different from the regular layout. I was schooled on it and where to bow. So it was a good thing to join the group. I may have gotten this info and correction another time, but, maybe not, therefore I was grateful for the guidance! Then after that I got the corrections about my arm and tenouchi, which threw my whole game off, but oh well I will make correction, adjustments again. To survive one adapts.

I am thinking even if I do not pass this time, I will be in a much much better place for next time. Sooner or later it will all click into place…and Bam!! Yon-dan in da hous!!! LoL!

Solar circumnavigation celebration…

 And so another Solar circumnavigation is done, and as one thing ends another begins. Here I am in Japan at sixty plus something, feeling blessed. Sailing on occasion, Shakuhachi study, Kyudo Study, Still able to do Kung Fu, although not teaching. Still it is a part of my life. It was my first stop in the morning of the day to go to the local Shrine and practice yet another form of Meditation, “Motion Chan” aka Kung fu. The grounds are peaceful, most of the time, but early morning had that extra quality about it. Under the shade of trees, the sound of the birds, danced in my ears. It was going to be another hot day. Even early it was already quite warm and humid.

I have four items to practice, that I have made as my “practice”. Yang 24, Chen 24, Hsing Yi, Bum bo Mantis. I have been getting in Tai Chi in the mornings on the way to work. But it has been a while since I have done my full practice. Today was good, I wet down with oil the mosquitos do not like and was able to get through the sets without being bothered. Even into playing some Shakuhachi and grabbing a few pictures I was unmolested.

The next morning was fairly much the same. Less humid maybe, I did not sweat as much. or it was the clothes. I played more flute. I figured since it was the first day of Obon I should as a Komuso play a few traditional Komuso songs. I played Tamuke the offering song for the departed. Even though I was at a Shinto Shrine not a Buddhist temple, it still seemed fitting. Thanking the spirits there for letting me practice on the scared grounds.

I returned home with my top almost soaked from my water-loss, in the humidity, but it was cool. I felt in a good place having got my full practice done. I had done a little garden work in the morning before I left to train. I had a turf battle with a horde of caterpillar which had invaded my parsley. I was surprised that they tried to bite me when I went to remove them. I was reminded of a saying. ” your arms are to short to box with God”. As such was the case with them. I am very good with chop sticks!! The conflict was short. Banishment was carried out.

Next on the list for the day was getting a sail in. I was looking forward to it, but not overly so. I did not want to go to the “master’s” marina, or see him. More so not see him, and the boat was going to be hot hot, no shade, no cover. However, since I was able to take advantage of that perk as a instructor, I did.

There was not supposed to be much wind that day, however the wind was perfect I should take advantage of the opportunity. I was able to sail at a nice clip even under just the main sail. I was feeling lazy and mostly just wanted to get the sailing “chi” but did not want to work much. As in trimming and tacking, putting the extra sail on off and away. If there was a roller jib that would have been nice , but no, none. So I just used the main and it was perfect. I got the vibe, the energy, the Chi without a lot of work.

While there was good wind there was also a lot of chop. I could feel myself really needing to focus on the horizon a lot, even with taking the seasick pill. I did not wear my wrist bands, I should have. maybe I needed that little bit of “xtra”since I had not been out on the water in long time. No sea legs I guess it is called. Even still it was a good sail, a good reconnected to the water element and wind. Feng Shui of the earth. I felt like the return of Capt Zen.

I was exhausted when I got back to the dock. I am glad I had chilled water with me. I did not work much but the heat and sitting in the sun took my strength. After I got the boat put away I went to one of the seaside shops there at the marina and had a “softcream” cone. and relaxed in the a/c for a while. Once a felt normal again I mounted my bike and headed home.

My wife and I had dinner plans at a restaurant we had received free dinner tickets. They were given to us as part of thank you for attending a funeral of an “aunt”. Interestingly it is the start of Obon, a remembrance of the deceased time in Japan. We had received the tickets a long time ago but it worked out to go now for a couple of reasons. So it was like a birthday gift from “auntie” for us. My wife’s birthday is the next week.

It was a mediterranean meal. For me perfect! I ate a lot it was an upscale buffet type setting. Somethings had meat , but enough other things did not, so I got to double down on some things. My wife was not as pleased with things as I was. She was also surprised how busy it was, because the place was so new and Obon was the next day. Anyway I enjoyed.

It was a good day, a blessing. As one gets old, one understands more how short the good days grow. On the other hand, in Zen it is said, “every day is good”. But I am talking number not quality. Live so to enjoy each one, we can not see the bottom of the cookie jar….Amitoufo

 

 

弓道 – Already Down…

 

I took my Shinsa paperwork into the dojo today for Watashi Sensei to review. As expected there were errors and changes to be made. He had me call my wife to explain, after some time on the phone with her all was clear and I was told with the correction I could just mail it to the headquarters. Hopefully it will turn out ok.

However…

I am already depressed. The Tourney on Sunday gave me enough of a lift to think I could have a chance at being successful in the Shinsa. Tuesday at class I was not so sure. However after a little poking I figured to go ahead anyway. Sort of as a practice Shinsa again and also to be with my five classmates of the same rank also testing. Sort of like one for all, and all for one musketeers thing…sort of.

On Tuesday one of my Sempai noticed me hand shaping my Yumi. I was told by another Sensei I needed to do it often maybe every time I shot. This sempai did not think it was good what I was doing. I explained why. Hmmm he said looking at the Yumi. This is a Bamboo yumi made in the States by someone who learned in Japan. Other than the very top part which he did differently for better rotation, I guess, looks the same as made in Japan. I have to shape the top often as I said, I was told. My Sempai told the Kaicho, the Kaicho came an looked at the Yumi. Hmmmmm he said. This part is delicate, it is not good to shape it the way you are doing it. Then then showed me a wooden piece which can be placed on the Yumi and string to help set set the twist correctly. So this is not all that uncommon I guess. Set it and leave it for a couple of days it will be fine he said.

oK, So I am thinking I should just use my other Yumi as my main practice bow. It is Glass and Bamboo and heavier. Made in Japan.
I placed the “shaper” on to the bow after practice and left it to reset.

I returned on Thurs, to check on my bow and to have Sensei check my paperwork for the Shinsa. The Bow was better now, it worked, however it soon returned to the original shape. I was disappointed. I shot the rest of the day with the “Bamglass” bow. I shot poorly which was expected. I had to adjust “things’ to use the stronger, thicker, heavier Yumi. I asked Sensei which was a better yumi for me to use on a daily shoot. The Bamglass or the Bamboo. He said the Bamglass was the one to use for “everyday”. The Bamboo for once in a while. Sigh. The Bamboo being lighter and weaker was easier to shoot for long practice periods. but, Oh well in Kung Fu we train with heavier weapons for a purpose. So I would look at it that way. However Which should I test with? I have to set focus points for both, as both are different. Switch back and forth before and event to get use to both ?

Again my shooting for the day sucked. Worse now with a different bow. Oh well I am already signed up to go for the most part. Sometime we need that push, like a bird from it’s nest. I also faced the real truth of in Kyudo it is not the equipment, but the Archer. After I got a little better with my height adjustment. I notice my Ya going to the same place as they did with my Bamboo Yumi. This proves, I am the Problem. The issue is with in me. Very Zen. Yeah Bad choice to attend this Shinsa session.

Watashi Sensei gave me some time on corrections. I did get some helpful things to work on.

I returned on Sat, today. I figured If I am going for it, I should do it right and put in some more practice time, as much as possible. I am working sort of again so I should be ok with the minister of finance.
With the Shinsa so close and it being at our dojo the place today was busy. It usually is on Sat but seemed more so to me today. More Senseis on the floor.

I did some warm ups then shot. I hit with my first two shots. Big surprise to me. It went down hill from there. I ended up with a 25% or so hit rate. Not good going into a Yondan Shinsa.
The Kaicho gave me some one on one time today. I got more helpful corrections, Seems the explanations are getting more detailed now. Or making more sense to me now. I sent a lot of time today watching others shoot and get corrections. I found the shoulders being to tight, raised, alignment is a common issue. So it is not just my issue…Still others are shooting better, more hits it seems…Yeah I am not ready.

However, Shinsa is part of the training pass or not…it is a mind thing.

Before Shinsa you train
After Shinsa you train…

 

弓道 – The Goodwill shots

 

Goodwill shots

Last week at our dojo we hosted a “Goodwill Tai Kai”. There were three maybe four local Kyudojos involved. One of which was the dojo that I could not join. I have mixed with them on several occasions and am friends with a few members. Still it is the first thing that comes to mind when I see them as group. I am glad though it worked out as it did. Amitoufo.

 

It was a very hot day. We had been having a heat wave as of late. We made the best of it. We had a lot of airfans blowing, the gym even had the a/c on. It was not really that helpful unless standing right next to a vent.  
Anyway it did not affect our mood. There were a lot of smiles and chatting on the sidelines. It was not a huge tourney, it was a comfortable size to finish with time left over to just shoot and practice. The dojo closed at 5:00 on Sundays. There was no “master” doing some kind of formal thing at the opening. We just bowed in, a few statements, then got right to the shooting.
It was otherwise a regular Tai Kai. The shooting order was already worked out and printed, that was different. The cost went up to 500 yen from 300. Still ok!
One of my Sempai Sensei gave me the “go fight win” thing before my shots. I am always surprised when finding out who was paying attention to my shooting. Afterwards, the Dojo Kaicho gave me some well done comment. As did Yamashita sensei, now, a Nana-dan. Watashe sensei, the main sensei had a good chuckle when I was leaving the floor after my fist round. He corrected me as I was leaving. Oops! There was a new arrangement on where to exit. I cut in front of Honza, instead on behind it.
I had been thinking about use not this tournament as a gauge if I should take the Shinza next month. I had not been feeling ready, but I thought maybe just for practice I could do it, since it was at home dojo, I am working again a couple of days a week, why not.

My shots for the day were fair. Better than I have done in a while. I got 6 out of 12. Fair. Also no sensei came/said to correct some large mistake. So ok, I am thinking, I will give it a shot. I still have a few weeks I can maybe improve more and have more than a fifty fifty chance of passing, or at least 50/50. I would see how I did at the next practice.

 

So…continued
I went my regular Tuesday class. We did not have the usual kimono class, so we just practice. I did poorly again. Not surprised usually how it is goes. So I tried some adjustments. It is always those little adjustments. More training is needed, ganbatte I tell myself. I am asked by a couple of Sensei if I will take the Shinsa? I am hesitating I say. I need more training. One sensei says, you should, there is you and several others from here , and names them. Yeah I know…I reply. Another Sensei says do not wait until you are old and weak or something like that. So ne! I reply. One could say though, what difference does it make? It is not like you can make a living teaching Kyudo. Goals are good, but more important is enjoying one’s self and growing. Noting will change by me going to Yondan except my membership fee . LoL!!!
I am having my entry paperwork, done today. At some point you just have to go for it. Sort of like setting off on a sailing voyage. One can always come up with reason to wait another month, year…but if one is going to do it, you prepare, but still ya gotta just go do it, at always be at the dock! At the least this is a shakedown cruise.