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.

 

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Jedi – Day 3

In the wake of Jebi – day 3

Into the third day now afterwards, still no power. There is some just a couple of blocks away. By what my wife says, it will be another five days. She is saying the outage is big in this section, pole down or ?

Anyway once leaving these couple of blocks the rest of the world seems normal. I went out last night to band practice, Band #2. It was my first venture into the world since Jebi. There was some damages here and there, but nothing like what pictures I have seen on The Net! The overall damage for us and the hood was minor.
A train station just a couple of stops down from us, burned down! Some places were intense! What a blessing to only have to deal with no power and some minor Fixable damage, and some inconveniences. Nearby, some have no power or water!!
The last couple of days I just made do with things as they are. I practiced and chilled, while being thankful, that is all we had to deal with in our lives.
The sights on the way to the rehearsal location all seemed pretty normal. Coming back home I could tell a deference in the lighting, watching though the window.
I am going back out today soon. The plan, lunch, buy more batteries an a couple more of LED lights, go to Kyudo, go to Band #1 rehearsal.
Tomorrow we have our first real paid gig! Hopefully some people will show up!

Typhoon 21

 

Typhoon 21…the day after

 
Last night after the passing of Jebi the mighty, I just chilled. I really had n choice with no electric. Interesting how much we as modern people rely on it. Without thinking, it is just there. Many times I caught myself thinking, ok, I will just blah blah, nope, no power, or bah blah blah, nope no power.
 
I ate a small dinner of a salad w/cheese, some Seaweed, nuts, wine, bread, maybe something else, on the early side. So I would not have to eat with any of that in the dark. I did on hand a small array of light to see by stuff about the house. I gathered some while there was light. 
 
Also since I still had some light outside, I went out and did some Kyudo Makiwara training. The neighborhood was mostly quiet. The next door guy asked me some things, while I was setting up.
Another neighbor was doing some picking up of trash at her house front driveway. We also chatted a little. We usually do not speak other than konnichiwa. I spoke first and said something about the strong wind. So we did typhoon and damage small talk before continuing what we were doing.
 
I practiced for a while. Makiwara practice has changed for me over the time using do it. Evolve to more than just pull and shoot. Even though it is a external practice form, it is really an internal practice, with an external face. Same as doing Tai Chi, or Sui Zen. Searching for that perfect “feel” with a shot , is seaching for that perfect note tone, I did not practice long, as people were busy cleaning their yards, I felt off not having to clean, just shooting. Not that I did not have house damage but there was nothing in the front for me to do, or could do in the rear, not already done. No one cared , it was just my trip.
 
It was near to dark, and with no street lights shortly it was a good time to call it a wrap. Back on the house I prepared for the coming of darkness. Place a couple of light sources about at key spots. Added batteries to one unit. Opened a bottle of wine, selected a flute readied a spot on the floor, by the open sliding door. It was quite warm and with no fan some ventilation was needed. Several of the neighbors were out in the street talking, like a social meeting. Chatting some laughing. Usually I would not sit where I was to play, with that much activity in front, but …things were different tonight. I had chosen my large Shakuhachi so it was not too loud or easy traveling high pitched. I had a oil lamp next to my music chart, but really just played from memory, and then later just whatever the rain told me. After a while of just going through my song list, it started to rain, quite hard. The streets emptied and became quiet. I could see small lights glow from the house windows. Soon it was only the sound of rain and the breath of my flute in the darkness of night.
 
The next day, today I checked over the full damage as best I could. Still no power, that is a bummer. My balcony garden was a wreak, the roof cover to the balcony had blown off as did the downstairs back extension roof. I am talking about those plastic sheet panels. Real damage was to a section of the house roof where the bathroom is. There were many , well several broken tiles. I am pretty sure this type of repairs are handled by the owner. There are things that we have to fix, but I hope this is not some them. It is structure. Hmmmm we’ll see. If I had a ladder I could do most of the work myself.
 
I am supposed to have a band practice tonight, our only one for this group before our show. Hopefully I can make it. As of yet there is no electric in the are, so no trains. It is noon now, maybe later this afternoon. All I can do is let things work themselves out…Amitoufo

 

 

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 – 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 – 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.

Everyday People


“I’m just Everyday people”…Sly and the Family Stone

 
My dad use to tell me, get educated, don’t use you back for work use your brain. I put myself through college and got a degree. I even had a good job with my own office for a while. Yet here I am working with my back after retirement. Almost like all that education, training etc, meant nothing. However I would not be here if not for that. Everywhere we are, is because of where we have been.
 
Once in another past life I was an Auto mechanic. I worked for a car dealer, so yeah I was a serious mechanic. I recall in the 70’s I was working for a Buick dealer, when there was no work, no car at the moment, we would hangout and wait for a job to come up. I would go sit on a large storage shelve unit, crossed legs and just mediate, of sorts. I did not know what meditation was back then. People thought I was just sort of strange, off to myself sitting cross-legs just watching stuff. For me I was just being in the moment.
 
These days I flash on that again, while I wait for the group at the “Silver Center” to organize and go out into the field of whatever day job it is. I have been called back to work for the summer to work at the “Silver Center”. I do not hate it, but do not like it. The money is helpful, the exercise is good for me. I do wish it more year around at something, than only 6 mo. There is other stuff happening though out the year I am sure, but just not for me.
 
What is the Silver Center? It is a city own company/ operation that hires retired people, older than me, to do mostly in my group, landscape work. Like clearing overgrown bush in parks, water channels, yards, sometimes pickup dead flowers and stuff from some local shrines, trimming trees, helping some old person clear a house, or something. When the weather is cool or mild it is not too bad a job most times. Summer, like now can be brutal. Working out in the sun, sometimes on the side of a steep hill, mosquitoes! The big issue I have some times, is there is no toilet, for function #1 , no problem , just go off to the side stand and go. #2 can be a problem. I have to watch what I eat the night before and try to go before I leave the house or shop into the field. There are some places I know where a unit is nearby, a temple, convenience store, on the park grounds. Those are the good places. Some times there is none and I spend a lot of time hoping the morning weird stomach goes away. A couple of times it did not and I had to become a basic animal in the woods…Either way the first thing I check out on the work site is, where is the Loo?
 

The getting up at 5:00am used to be a big deal, now not so much. Except when it is dark and cold. At these times now, summer and hot, I am up, water the plants, Zazen, eat, then off to work. I stop on the way to do some TaiChi/Hsing Yi. So it is good to be up early and get that in before the heat. I ride my bike to work about 15 min. The group has already done their Japanese Morning warmup when I arrive. Usually I stretch then just Zazen off to myself.

Lately a couple of people will come over to me and ask for some kind of Qi Gong /accupressure treatment on their back or shoulder. I helped one guy I like before and the word spread, I can “do stuff” being a Shaolin Sensei. Some of these people I work with have never seen or talked to a real foreigner before, I am “unique” Some of the new peeps are surprised to see me. The older crew already know me after 4 years and are quite comfortable . I can play and joke around with a few of them and they back at me, including with the job foreman. They most times think about me when buying the group coffee and get me tea or juice. All are a nice bunch of guys. Most of them are older than me and yet hold their own out on the field. Even though I get some of the heavier lifting jobs, well most, they all when needed will do what is needed. I see some old guys who look like they are struggling when walking, climb up ladders and trees to cut stuff, or walk along on steep hills where it is hard to walk much less walk cutting growth back with a power machine on your shoulder. Yet these guys do it not complaining other than, “It is hot isn’t “, the normal saying here. I have seen a couple of new people stop working or taking a break , (of which we take a lot in the heat ), at the wrong time, and get scolded by someone, not a super or something just a working guy.

Overall people get along and look out for the group. If someone stops at a store for a drink or something cool, they will bring enough for everyone. Everyone stops what they are doing and take an unscheduled break. When we are working everyone has their job and work as a whole to finish, sometimes switching from role to role as needed.

 

At lunch, sometimes we sit as a group and eat then nap. Sometimes , and some places I can go off to myself as do some others, eat, practice my Shakuhachi and or take a nap. We regroup after lunch and back to the task at hand.

I miss working at the boat yard in some ways, it is/was more skilled required. But the owner was/is not a kind person. One felt weird when on a break which was only 15 min once a day. On the other hand at the Silver Center when we take breaks, no one get paranoid when the “boss” shows up. Our break is our break, and we have them as needed. If we are on break when a supervisor shows up, he will speak to just one person the header or sit with everyone a short while, sometimes bring refreshment. We do not have to feel weird when the “boss” is in a bad mood, or really anyone much, we have our assignments and do it.

 
I am usually a raker and or a dead/cut bush loader. Either into a trash packer or the back of a dump truck. I can put on my face mask for the pollen protection and stuff,. I get really bad allergies from the dried plants here in Japan. Near had it in the States even when I did this kind of outside work in Virginia. With mask on I turn on my iPod, and just work left alone or alone in a group. Really the only days I really hate is when something has to be done on the side of a hill, unless I am on task on top of the hill just pulling up bundles of cuttings and loading them into a compactor or something. Sometimes I have had to load up a pitchfork full of cuttings carried on my shoulder and walk up hill or a distance and uphill, because the access is that difficult. Sometimes, it is rake and compile on the side of a hill, lift the cuttings over a fence and down a another hill or something, all to be collected and loaded on a truck and taken to the city dump, where it is burned.
 
Sometimes we finish up early and sit around chatting so not to get back to the office too early. Since I do not chat well I usually, but not always go sit off to by myself in Zazen and some point think back to being a mechanic sitting on a storage shelf…and feel grateful.
 
Amitoufo

Then there were three

Then, there were three

Ok yeah, this not the post about working with the blue collar locals either. Things happen, that will also ” be the bamboo” flow with the wind ! This is though about playing the blues, with the locals, and sometimes it is a labor, so, it is close,


I recently wrote about the last gig, a real gig with the Doc’s band. Overall it went ok, good even depending on one’s view. I receive a FB message from the Doc asking if I would like to play with him at an up coming event at a local live house. This is the Doc’s favorite spot. He hosts a blues night there twice a month. I stopped going because the owners wants his band not only to host, but to play most of the evening, AND pay to get in and pay for their weak drinks. Oh hells no! I have said! So, there is this event on Monday coming three days away from when I was asked. This event has been planned for a while and it was known about again for a while. He chose to ask me three days in advance. I have bitched at him before about this. He asks me, can you play with me on Monday I do not have a band yet. Such n such the keyboard player, I was expecting him but he said he is busy… So there is just, the house drummer and him, I am told.

 
This guy, the Doc, is a local, he has been playing in this area for years, people, know him, musicians know him, he has been playing at this Live house “Overheat” for the last year, as blues host… However he can not get people to play with him…hmmmmm
 

I simply said I pass, enjoy yourself!

 
Now I had been asking myself just the day before, do I want to continue with this guy. I am getting Irked, embarrassed at shows, complaining on blog posts, having negative feelings about the whole un-oneness of the group. Feeling like a turkey at times, do I need this??? My wife says, you should just say you are busy when he asks. Hmmmm. I thought on it…
 
In America there at one time was something called a butterball turkey. Maybe it is till there. Since I stopped eating meat I do not know. This turkey had a little button inserted, so when it was finished cooking and ready, this red bottom would pop out, that was your signal it was ready, done! There is an expression in the States people say when they had enough of something, they say I am done! Or stick a fork in me I am done!
 
This latest thing with the last-minute call, invite to play was my red button, it popped! The straw that broke the camels back some also say. I was done! I sent the Doc a formal resignation notice, thanking him for the pleasant times past, but my attitude and goals for playing was not compatible with his, for his band, and as everything has a time and season, this was mine for officially leaving the group.

The final band shot

 
I got a note from one of the other bands asking if I was available to play at Chicago Rock in Sept. the day after my main other band plays. :-). I said yeah, I am in, let’s do it.
 
Another message from a keyboard player I have done shows with in the past, asked me a few days earlier if I would do a spot at a seaside festival I had played at last year. The wife-owner of Snafkin wanted to know. I played at this event two other times before, last year was with the Snafkin owner before he passed away! I am in I said!
 
My other band asked me if I had a friend to play drums for our gig at Chicago Rock also in Sept. Yes,  I am playing in Sept at Chicago Rock, three times with three different groups. It is not a big fancy club, but it is a known club and a good stepping stone and testing ground.
 
So…Wwow all these people organizing their shows months in advance! What a concept! Professional minded players, are real, it is not just a fantasy in my head.
 
So I am down to three bands and my solo career. I think that is plenty, and a great outlet for that side of my musical ministry and clears out some negative energy. I would prefer just being with one good , working often band, however that does not seems to be Japanese style. At least at this level. I have friends whose bands work “regular”, even there the members play it are more than one band, even when their band is a hot band! So when in Rome…or Japan…roll with it
 
Amitoufo

..

The blue collar post is written, it will post next.