Return to Paradise…Kung Fu Kyudo Sunday


Return to Paradise…Kung Fu Kyudo Sunday
I was looking forward to Sunday and shooting with the Kyudo Kai people. Real Kyudo, decent equipment. I was emailed the address, which turned out to be walking distance close to the hotel. However, first was a visit to my Tai Chi Mantis brothers. They were meeting on Sat. and on Sunday. I did not go on Sat as I wanted to go to ChoZenji and the hope to do Kyudo or at least something else of interest.  So Sunday morning it was. They started at 7:00 am. I thought about it and figured there was no reason for me to be there that early, I went in at 8:00.
 As it turned out there was a marathon race that day, so early morning travel was disrupted somewhat. I was not sure I could get to the park or if they were having the practice even with the race going. I was somewhat thinking, this may be another letdown. I figured I hoped it would not affect them and found out I could walk to the park in about 30 minutes. It was not a big deal! So off I went. It was a pleasant walk almost a direct line from my hotel. I found it easily. The group was also easy to spot even though it was just three of them. 
I walked over and asked for a couple of people mention by my Sempai in the States. They were curious and cautious, who is this guy?  I introduced my self, they were very welcoming after that. Turns out I am their leader’s Sempai. We chatted about this and that, people, from, kung fu, philosophy. It was pleasant almost like a family reunion, meeting cousins you had not meet before. I got someone to do a form so I could film it. I wanted to relearn having forgotten it from lack of practice.  We talked more about the differences between versions from different schools and philosophy. I did a standard basic form, Bumbo, to compare with theirs. It was a nice visit. I did not stay long as I did not want to interrupt too much their training. We took a group picture so I could post and send to my Sempai in Cal, to show I did make it by.
From there I went back to the hotel to rest more. I would go to shoot with Kyudo group later that afternoon.
After another nap, I set out for the Kyudojo. It was another easy walk from the hotel. About 25 min. I came across a few interesting sights on the walk. Including a Whole Foods market where I picked up dinner for the evening, after Kyudo practice and lunch for the next day. Coolness and yummy vegetarian stuff. I missed that. I use to eat from there often when living in Ca!
I locate the dojo. It is in the parking lot of a veterinarian hospital which the guy and his wife own. It was a nice setup. Comfortable and although outside and open, it was private! The owner lent me one of his Yumis. He was a large guy so the size was right also the ya!. Many of the group from the other night were there. We had a little concern with a rain shower but it did not last. It was one of those brief and light Hawaiian showers. Unlike the two I had been in after the Chozenji class while waiting at the bus stop a couple of nights!
When I first went up to shoot, I could feel all eyes were on me. New bow, new environment, pressure…my first shot hit center! Yeah, cool I thought…total luck! My next shot was a miss, but that is ok. I stepped off the platform. Others took shots. Some hit some did not. There were about 10 people there but only four were shooting the others were new, and had not even taken their first shot as yet I make ready for another shot. This time the elder guy, the sensei from the dojo, suggests I need to press down with the base of my thumb and not the tip so much, so it would open a hollow in palm better. I thank him, and shot again, of course missing when doing a new adjustment. However my form was ok, and I was relaxed.
The rest of the time was spent chatting with a few people there. Which was ok, I had gotten to shoot a few times, and a small bit of instruction. I was pleased. I would have shot more, however, after being asked about a couple of the new people if I thought they were ready to take their first shot. I agreed they looked ready the Matos were raised so that the shooters could stand closer and not try to start with the full 28 meters. With that being done, I decided it was time for me to leave. Several others had already taken off for the day. It was very casual shooting time. People came as left as they wanted. I was offered a ride to the hotel earlier but turned it down having said I walked and wanted to go to Whole Foods on the way back. Since there was no rain, it was ok for me to walk. 
I walked back and settled down with my dinner and a little TV. It was a good day. I was feeling the trip was worthwhile. The ChoZenji visit was not that great, disappointing in fact, but the other stuff went ok and I met some nice folks.
Monday would be the last session, then back to Nihon. The weather was nice, but I was sort of ready to return to Japan. All that I wanted to do was mostly done. I did not get to sail, my sailing friend was still in Greece and the Shakuhachi/ Kyudo master was traveling. I had heard he was maybe in Japan. Oh well!
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Return to Paradise…getting real on day three


Return to Paradise…getting real on day three

I killed time on the third day. Really do not even recall what I did, besides sleep, maybe a little shopping. Ahh we/ I move to another hotel where we would stay the rest of the trip. We had a nice view this time. Part view of the ocean overlooking the marina an park, plus the city. The marina /ocean view made me nostalgic for my Waterworld days. Sigh. I have a friend who lives here in Hawaii and has a sailing business, the boat I believe is docked in this marina. However, just like several of the other bad timing bummers with this trip, he is on vacation in Greece! So no boat ride for me. Sigh, oh well. More to roll with.
So back to ChoZenji for the second day. I made the trip there with no problem. I did not arrive as early but still within good time. This time I sat in the community room with a few other before class and got to speak briefly with a few people there. I was told I could join the class session if I wanted to after the sitting. It was called Zen and Aloha. I did not really know what it was about, but it was not something I had originally planned on attending. However, since I had my whole plan disrupted, I figured ok why not join and experience what the universe was giving me. Then it was time to do Zazen. I did my entry as I should and took a seat. I did have a little help with something or another by an older local man. Older as in about my age and experienced there at the Zen Center. Then we sat. I received a bit of straightening shortly after sitting, but not like the first time. It was not as bad this time, the long sit. However, it was going to be a long session. I was told beforehand, the session would be the standard 45 min, then some breathing drills, then another sitting session! Then whatever the class session stuff was. I was not really looking forward to 1.5 hr Zazen but, it was training so I ready my mind to deal with it! 
After the first sitting, we walked around, not slowly and mindfully like with the Soto group I practiced with before. This time starting slowly then speeding up and staying close-ranked. It was sort of weird I thought. However, I went with it. I found out later from the older guy, named Les, this is the Rinzai way. Also changing direction. Start slow for those whose legs are not quite there yet. Then the speed up close file.  followed by another 45 min sitting. Legs hurt, but not too bad. I could cope. 
One surprise about this sitting was as we started, someone started playing Shakuhachi. Wow, I had seen this on the floor earlier in the community room, but I not inquire about it. It was petty good playing. It was not a tune I had heard and did not sound quite like an Honkyoku. It went on for the full 45 min we sat. I figured it was something else made up by the Shakuhachi master there, or the person playing was improvising. It was pleasant to listen to that and do Zazen. I asked the young head priest later as I was leaving if that was him. Yes he said, I gave him the thumbs up.
Next started the class, we did some seated breathing drills, some with making vowels sounds. Basically while seated we raised one hand then the other in a half circle. Sometimes silent, sometimes with making vowel sounds, or a hmmmm. Totally unlike any Chi Gong, I had experienced. I did not really feel anything other than a little weird. Not from being self-conscious about the drill, but that felt no Chi change.

Next, we stood in a circle held hands and did some Hawaiian call and response chanting. After that we sat and did introductions around, who was who, was who, your name, where do you consider yourself from, and why are you here. That was sort of interesting, where do you consider yourself from, sort of like what was your face before you were born type of question when you thought about it. After I did my part in the circle sharing we did some movement drills, is the best way to describe it. Moving around the room in a line, not in a line, avoiding someone else moving around the room with their eyes closed and try not to hit them. It was explained as a drill in awareness. Like moving through your life, trying to get somewhere, but needing to avoid some random item, issue, person, a thing. Needing to be aware of it and that it is coming, but continue to move forward.

The last section of the class the leader asked about who wanted to do some Tai Chi or do some chanting. I wanted the Tai Chi, but the group wanted the chanting. So I remained quiet and went with the flow to learn, experience something new and different. I have never been big of chanting. Maybe to self-conscious, weird for a person who sings in a band. Anyway, we sat in a circle. We were given a book of chants. A bit was discussed about the nature of the chant. It was not about the words, in some cases, the words have been lost. It is about the sound, the vibe. The body as a sound chamber. The same as what is being done playing Shakuhachi as SuiZen. It is not the music it is the sound, the vibe.
We chatted for a while with the leader banging the fish for the timing. It was interesting, more so now that I am thinking back on it.
We ended the session with another Hawaiian hand-holding group call and answer chant.

The class session name “Zen and Aloha Spirit” makes sense now. It was not what I was looking for, but I got something out of it. I learned something, which was part of the point of going to this Hawaiian pilgrimage.

“Sometimes times one learns what they need, not want they want.”…Brown Buddha

…Amituofo

 

Return to Paradise…the Pilgrimage so far


Return to Paradise…the pilgrimage so far

 
Alohaaaa. Made it back to the islands. It was a loooonnnnngg trip. Yuk! The first day was miserable! 8 hour flight. That was not so bad, tiring, but smooth and faster than planned. We had a good tail wind I am guessing. We arrived 1.5 hours ahead of time, so really only 7 plus hours of flight. Next off to the hotel. The shuttle was way more expensive than planned or told in the guide book! Once at the hotel at 8:00am we had to wait until 3:00pm to check in. Yuk yuk yuk! We went to IHOP for breakfast! Another price shock!! Breakfast at IHOP use to be fairly cheap, maybe still is on the mainland. Not, not, not in Hawaii! More pricing shock! I was also surprised, hmmm forgot how fat Americans can be! Most of those in IHOP were as big as the native Hawaiians and Samoans here! Wow!
 
Back to the hotel afterward to sit in the lobby for the rest of the day! I was not in a good mood! Cranky! We had left our bags at the check-in in the parking lot. I had no books, no iPad, no internet! I just sat! Not the Zazen type of just sitting. I did not use the time wisely. I should have just went into a Zanzen state of mind. That would have been wiser than the irked just sitting state. Oh well… I did manage to nap a bit. I did not want to walk around the area, we were in tourist land, and I had no interest, so I just sat, breathed, sat, settled, breathed… not a happy camper. Finally decided even if it was a hassle to do for the people at the storage. I would get my hand carry bag, with my books, I could at least read. I got my bag with no hassle for them or me, and when I returned to the lobby, the room was ready! 2:00 pm …Sigh.
 
The room was ok, it was a free room due to the points my wife had, so could not complain. Noisy street view. However, free is free! Only there for two days so….oh well, roll with it. We Settled in.
 
Finally ChoZenji 
 
The next day after chilling most of the day. I located how I was to get to ChoZenji and took the bus. It was to be an over an hour ride by bus. It was different riding the bus with the locals, all kinds, all kinds, imported and domestic! Some interesting, some scary looking. Public Trans people are the same all over the world. I rode to the end of the line with the bus on the route I had. Then I had to walk about 15 min into a valley to get to the ChoZenji temple. I was early.
 
The person I had been in communication with came out to meet me. She had me fill out some form and was told I could just walk around and hang out for a while. She said she would change and come out to find me. I was told a little about the location and the small hill which was sort of the center of the grounds of two acres. It was deemed a power spot by local spiritualists!
 
I walked a bit up the hill to feel the vibe and take in the view. I took a few pictures and looked at a few of the statues. My guide came shortly and she took me around the grounds and filled me in on the history of the place and the founders. It was impressive the backgrounds of them. I was shown the shrines, the house built for former Abbot, told the story of the peace bell, and the Chinese fat monk statue. Then I was taken to a small meditation building. I was surprised I was the only one. I was told the formalities of their style of meditation. We chatted a bit then did meditation. I was surprised when she stopped us, as I was expecting 45 min but we stopped early, really only about 15 min. I was told we would now go to the main hall and join the group there. Ohhh I thought!
 
Over to the main hall, they were just finishing the setup. There were about 15 people, myself and another woman were new. The other woman said this was her second time, I heard her say when we were getting the lineup to enter the hall. She did not want to be first in line. So then we entered, bowed and seated ourselves with the formalities.
 
My meditation is usually done with eyes open, this was done with eyes partly opened. I was told so to be aware of one’s surroundings but still not be attached to them. Not sitting facing the wall, but still the half-closed eyes sitting in a square in front of a small Altar and the leader of the session.
The room grew dark as time passed, the wind blew, it was “interesting”, aware, not attached, alert, not attached. Then the lead person came around. My guide bent over and receive the stick smack. Hmmm I disliked that, but figured unless I asked I would not get hit. I was told later another time and session that it could be a choice or not. When it was not it should be viewed as an act of compassion for various reasons. The lead came in front of me, then walked behind me, then back in front of me. He adjusted my position, placed the stick behind me for alignment, adjust me more, then left. I was now much straighter, and not comfortable, but correct. So I stayed still. I was told earlier once in a position they do not move. That is part of the training. Very Japanese. In the Chinese style, if you need to adjust yourself one does so, but in a manner not to disturb the others. So I forced myself to be still, go beyond the pain, discomfort, whatever. I knew that stuff already. Ignore the itch, the loss of feeling in legs, pain in the back…become one with stillness.
It was interesting to sit with eyes open, yet lose sight of anything, watching it fade into nothingness, and snap back when I thought of it. The wind blew, the building spoke with the wind, the trees joined the song, as the rain fell. Then finally the bell, the clappers sounded and it was over. I made it. For me, it was an hour sitting, the other 45 min added to the first 15 at the other smaller Zendo. I was not sure if my leg would allow me to stand. I did so without falling, a success. I notice another person limp as we returned the mats to the stacking place.
 
The group readied the area for the Kendo class. I would not be allowed to join any classes until after my second meditation session. I was asked when I wanted to return. I said I would return tomorrow and stepped out into the night.
 
I walked back down the hill to the bus stop. It was dark and quiet. After a while, a woman comes and sits on the bench with me. She speaks, hello and then goes into her own world. I could hear her talking to herself as she wrote on a piece of paper. Hmmmm. Another one who talks to herself aloud I thought. Jheeze. She talks and writes…I ignore her.
Then it starts raining again. Oh crap, oh well. I think nothing I can do about this, other than get wet. There was a big tree across the street but no leaves hardly. The woman opens an umbrella from somewhere and slides over next to me so I am covered also. The Aloha spirit! I thank her, after a moment she says you can hold it, so I did and she returns to writing and talking. Now I can see what she is writing, it is not something readable. It was also all over the place, sideways, between lines. Totally weird! I thought hmmm oh well. I also notice that the umbrella is falling apart, spokes are broken in places. Hmmmm, oh well, just be alert, I thought. The rain stopped after a while and the bus arrived. She discarded the umbrella and boarded the bus with me and took a seat.
 
The bus, for the most part, was empty. One other person who was chatting with the driver a regular local. I made it to my stop and I got off the bus, as did the umbrella woman. We both were transferring, but she went across the street to take another bus. I waited on the opposite side since I was going in another direction.
I found my bus stop and waited. Another woman I had passed while looking for the stop was there. She was dressed lightly. She did not look so homeless like the last woman, but still for sure not uptown. She wore a dress/skirt and a shoulderless top. The wind picks up and the rain starts again. This time, we are under a covered bus stop. Still, with the wind, we felt the rain. After a short while, another woman comes up. This one is dressed casual “normal”. The wind picks up and so does the rain. The woman in the light dress reacts to the wind and rain, the new woman, who has an umbrella, looks at me and figures out we are not together and holds the umbrella in front of the other woman to shield her somewhat from the elements. She thanks her and says, it was nice when I left the house!
 
About 10 minutes later the bus arrives and we all board and ride off into the night to our different destinations. Ships passing in the night…on the same sea but different courses…Amituofo
 
 
 
Next return to ChoZenji, “the adventure” day three.
 

Return to Paradise…the adventure begins


Return to Paradise….the adventure begins

 
My wife, it is her thing to set up cheap trips. We are heading to Hawaii now. It has been over 10 years since my last visit there. This time for me I had no interest in doing sight seeing. Having lived there for a while and visited afterward a couple of times, I have zero interest in sightseeing. This time for me it is all about training. Well at least 95%.
 
My last visit I wanted to visit the Hawaiian Kyudokai group. However at that time, they were no longer functioning. So no go! There was also a place called Chozenji. It is a Zen center. I called and spoke with someone about shooting, and doing some Zazen. I could not arrange it. I do not recall why, but it was a no! 
 
This time, the Hawaiian Kyudokai is back in operation. I finally after a long long time of tying to get in touch with someone, it was arranged for me to visit and shoot. I was hoping to get some help from a senior instructor on my shooting, in English. To see if I was missing anything. So it was arranged and set for me to visit…however…more the however later.
 
I was also able to contact ChoZenji successfully and make arrangement to visit. Chozenji has classes in Kyudo, ceramics, Taichi, Zazen, kendo, Aikido, Chado, and some other misc arts, and Zen training. Another, plus for the visit to ChoZen the archery instructor is also a Shakuhachi teacher, yeah, how cool is that? Heavenly training in Paradise…however…
 
There Is always usually a however. A yin to a yang.
 
Another thing, I was able to sort of arrange. My Kung fu sempai, with the Tai Chi Mantis federation his father was one of the seniors with the late grandmaster of the system. He had a school In Honolulu. There are still students there training on weekends in the park. My Sempai gave me the location, which is somewhat near where we are staying. So I can go train with them on the weekend, way cool!…no however!
 
Lastly, another friend runs a sailing school. He knows I am coming and said he would take me out on his boat! Another coolness. I will finally get to sail in Hawaii…however , yup another one 🙂
 
The however in this is my sailing friend is in Greece on vacation, maybe he will be back before we leave, maybe not!
 
The ChoZenji visit. Was arranged, thee are three howevers here. One they do western archery and call it Zen archery. They still o Kyudo archery but not all the time. I do not know when that happens. I asked about if they do real Kyudo, o was told they do both. That the end is the same, or something like that, the function is the same or something, hmmmm. My reply was hmm ok thanks. I do not know who it was that was telling me this. I do not think it was the instructor. Another however is the Tai Chi that they do, is not a standard Tai Chi. It is a 10 movement, not even the standard yang 24, something came up with by maybe the founder of the cente, who was supposed to be a high level player in many Martial Arts. I thought, well there is always something to learn, I will attend and roll with and open mind to learn something. The final however is, since my time is short I wanted to get into the center and busy asap. I will be arriving in town in the morning, the first session is not until evening. I figure great I can attend. Their prerequisite for attending any class is two 45 minute sessions. Not a problem, so I thought. There is a Zazen at 6:00pm the day we arrive. However I was told I could not attend, I needed to go to the introduction to Zazen class first. When I first contacted them I told them I was an experienced practitioner and also from the Rinzai linage. I was told I HAD to attend the intro to Zazen class. Sigh, that would not be until Tues, we arrive on Monday. So that is one day in the hole. I would miss the Taijiquan class on Monday. The Kendo class on Tues I would be in time for I really did not have that much interest. I can learn a few basics while in the islands, but I have no desire to continue once back in Japan. Even if I would be able to learn the principles, and use elsewhere. In a beginning class there are no real principals just very basics, stance, holding, etc. so really not that much of interest. Other than putting in the Zazen time, the day would be nothing of interest or new. Oh well…roll with it. Perhaps once I am there and go through their mandatory sitting, I can work out some kind of arrangement to at least practice, train on my own on the grounds for my stay. I will need to leave it up to the “Force” to provide the way.
 
The other “however”. The Hawaiian Kyudokai group had a scheduled special training class, session for beginners. They were unsure how many would show up fo part 2, the day I was attending. I could still attend and was welcome, I was told, but I would be limited to Makiwara shooting. Sigh, ok, better than nothing. I would get to meet the group and at least practice on my own…in effect roll with it.
 
The one last thing on my agenda for the visit was to visit, my linage home temple, where the sect first started in the States. I asked my abbot if there was still someone there I could see, or visit, or something I should see or visit. My Abbot passed away suddenly before I could get an answer. Sigh. So my plan for that was changed. I will still go visit the temple, pray and burn incense for my Abbot and my teacher from the linage who also passed away , maybe last year, I think it was. Whilst at it I will ask if I could speak with someone higher up than jut a regular monk and inform him of the passings and please pray for them. So rolling with it and making the best from what I was dealt. Yeah, pretty much the Cha’n way, and all we can do, under all circumstances. In sailing term, we can not control the wind, we can only adjust our sails…this is how we move forward with life…
 
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So I am on the plane now, the adventure begins.
 
Amitoufo.
 
 

弓道 – Sometimes you are the bird…

…sometimes you are the statue!

There was a large Kyudo Tai Kai (tournament) this past weekend. There were several dojo attending. It was cold, brrr. I had been out the day before doing Komuso stuff in Nara. I played it smart and after much of the day spent walking, I took a hot bath and went to bed fairly early. I needed to be at the Kyudojo by 8:30 am. This meant getting up at 5:00 am. Zazen, stretch, breakfast, gather my stuff and walk to the train. it was a little over an hour ride. It was also raining and very windy before I left. The rain stopped but the wind did not. that kept up most of the day as did the cold!

I arrived at the dojo in plenty of time. I got changed and went out to see who was there that I had not seen in the changing room. There were maybe 8- 12 of us from Kishiswada. Not a big turn out but ok. we settled in and the header gave instructions. I had no idea what was being said I just figured I would roll with as always.

There was the big group lineup and everyone took a spot with their group. Announcements were made, etc, etc. and we got started. The best shooters went first. I was not in that group. After a bit, I figured out there were maybe 6 rounds for each school. I mostly just hung out, milled about, watched took a few pictures and hung out by the heater, a popular spot for the day.

Finally, it was my turn. I settled myself and got in line. I was in the middle. That was good because I need to see what others are doing, I like those in charge knew that. Ok, we went on the floor. that was smooth. then the shots. Four arrows, I miss three and hit the last. sigh, oh well. At least I got one. I am checking out the hit rate afterward. someone else only got 1, several got only two, even the Kaicho got only one on his turn. So I did not feel so bad. One more group then a lunch break. I went with my group to gather arrows, I knew that much from other Tai Kai it is something one does.

I sat in the changing room for lunch, along with several others. It was warm there, I was not about to go elsewhere. Most of my group ate somewhere else together. Which was fine with me, I was warm, I had a comfortable seat. I was not about to move on my own choice.

lunch was over then another round started. Again I got a middle spot in near the last round. this time I got a big zero hits. I felt bad, not like we as a group were doing all that great but still not even one hit was a poor showing. Hmm, need to rethink about the next shinsa. Not feeling like I will be ready. More training, more waiting.
Once I finished shooting a classmate says something as I was getting ready to go get arrows. I had no idea what she was talking about. I finally figured out I was being told to wait I needed to shoot again for some reason, this time only two arrows. Again another miss. However even though we took out two arrows, we only got to shot one, then we were finished. This was my one really feeling weird moment. I was so lost in thought of hitting my second arrow, that I did not notice no one else had knocked their second arrow, only me. I had to backtrack as everyone else was just standing there in ready position…oops. I have no idea what that was about. I did notice that one of the sensei clapped afterward even though we/I missed. So it was over for the most part. I gather my stuff to leave, hung out by the heater and clapped for my team-mates. Another round for others, then the big lineup. My goal for myself today was to support my school and examine myself. As far as that goes I was successful. As far as hitting, fail! It is interesting the more I try to do well, the worst I get. The desire factor makes a big deal. Like it is said, when you sit to become enlightened you go further away. Shooting for the prize all your skill fails. One needs to sit with no goals, shoot with no care. I did a lot better the day before when just practicing. I was back to 50% hits. I thought I had figured out a major issue I was having …nope. Oh well, back to training, or just shooting for fun. Shooting to Shoot, sitting to sit. no mind, no goals, just sitting, just shooting. Easy to say, hard to do.Amitoufo

up coming training in paradise.

Back to the tunes


Back to the tunes…

I kind of lost my place in my blog tales, near as I can figure the last thing was the Jazz band jam. Ok so yeah. I had the Shakuhachi thing at Shintannoji. I wrote about it on the Komuso blog. A brief recap here. Shintennojiis considered the oldest Buddhist temple in Japan, I was invited once again to join the memorial concert and play a song on the Shakuhachi. This is my second year doing this. It is both a big deal and nothing. I was the only “gaijin” in attendance. This is event is something that has been going on for many many years. Once again I was the first one to perform. I figured out later it was because I was the new kid on the block. It went well. I played a different length Shakuhachi this time. The one I use for modern music, because I like the deeper sound than my 1.8 standard size. It went well. I did not make any noticeable mess ups and was only somewhat nervous. A new music friend who had contacted me on-line came over to me meet and listen. She was interested in doing some music collaborations for YouTube. We went for coffee afterwards. We came across a place where there was an open mic session going on. As it turns out one person there knew me and mentioned to the club owner I was a Shakuhachi player. I was pretty surprised that he knew that as I thought this person had only seen me play bass.
Next up was another Jam session at Chicago Rock. I got in touch with the keyboard player from m band. We meet up at the club. I had planned this time to do a blues song on the Shakuhachi. The same one I did with the Jazz band. This time I was more prepared to deal with the sound issues I had before. At first, I was going to start with the group play with me on the Shakuhachi then switch at a certain point and play the bass. However, at the last moment, I changed my mind. Since I had the music chart written out I figured I would let someone else play the bass. I would just focus on the Shakuhachi and singing, maybe do a little harp depending on how it was going.
I did a couple of songs playing bass and singing, they went ok as expected. My last turn up on the mic, I chose to just play Shakuhachi. As usual, people were surprised when I bought it out. I had the bass player from the last group play bass and my friend on Keyboard plus a couple of guitar players. We started. It went well. It was a bit rough but that is to be expected at a Jam with no rehearsal and a new song for everyone, plus a new arrangement. I had no real problems with the sound this time. It was not great but I could hear myself and others could hear me. The middle section did not go as nice as I wanted but, as I said expected. However, overall it went ok. There was no point I felt embarrassed. So that was a win. I asked a couple of people afterward online what they thought all said it was good. So I have the confidence now to continue. I have figured out the getting the sound out issue, so I can move forward. Also now I am getting established as a Shakuhachi blues player, something rare on the blues world. I am getting to do something a little different, in a place where everything is the same.
The band has a concert coming up at the end of April. A big blues festival. Last year I played solo on keys and Shakuhachi. This year the new band is enrolled. I will be doing two songs with them. The guitar player has no nite a second guitarist to sit in with us. That will work out fine. I will have one of them play bass whilst I play only Shakuhachi and sing. I had thought of doing the opening with Shakuhachi then switch up midway to playing bass. This way will be better. We have two practice sessions, before the concert so there will be time to work out the rough spots in the tempo change. It should go over good and be unique and memorable if we can pull it off. Diffinetly something no other band will be doing, I want that.

“Koten-shakuhachi-kenkyuu-kai”

“Koten-shakuhachi-kenkyuu-kai”

Society for the Study of Classical Shakuhachi

 

We had our monthly meeting a few days ago. The day before my return to Shitennoji to play. So it was another good chance to practice in front of serious ears.

Today we were supposed to have a guest. A student of Oliver, a sempai to me of course. He is a college prof and a writer. You can read his blog/webpage here on Komuso, shakuhachi,  Ok,  so his student from China who is visiting in Japan was going to be there. Hopefully, she would bring her Chinese Koto and play.

I was coming for sure that day. I came from another part of town than usual, I wanted to attend a Buddhist meetup I had been pushing off for a long time. A spent a lot of lost time that morning searching for the location. However, all of that is another story. I arrived at the Shaku group meeting a little later than planned but not enough to have missed a lot. I needed to pick up food to bring and grab something to eat then.

I slipped in and joined in the song that was upcoming on the agenda. A short while later another elder sempai bows his way in. We continue and also repeat Cho Shi together once more.

The way is made around the table for everyone to play a solo piece. I did Tamuki as a test for the Komuso offering event at Shitennoji. ( FYI: that whole story is on the Komuso blog). It went over ok, no one gave up any corrections except do not move the flute around so much. ( I was trying to find the sweet spot). The correction I was given last time I got the ok nod from another sempai when I asked him it was, ok? So ok, past that. I am feeling better about the performance on Sunday.

The visitor is up. She says she will not play shakuhachi but will play her Koto for the group. Perfect! we all some questions about the Koto as she was tuning. We all looked it over from all angles.

When she played it was heavenly. We all loved it. It was suggested that since I was the musician that she and I do a song together. If there was the time I would have liked that, however, I was feeling a bit shy about that at the moment as was she, so neither of us stepped to make it happen. Thinking back now I should have tried. It was not like a big deal to sound bad. Hahahah. It would have been all in fun. Sometimes being humble and shy is a fun blocker. I still need to step out of my comfort zone more, yet another personal challenge to work on….Amitoufo

 

 

…and so we are here.

Life can get in the way of blogging. LIfe rules. Life goes on, blog or not. You can not blog without life. I am in the deep post stage of healing now from the operation. No side effects I can see. ( hehehe) . I am so glad it is over. My eyes sight is still recovering, I am told about a month for vision to stabilize. Even I am so much better off now, visually speaking.

…In the world of bows and arrows.

I will get back to Kyudo training now, I can see clearer. Visually and mentally. I think I should make some progress now. I do not expect a lot of change because of the vision thing, but because I am understanding more about alignment, holding it, without tension. The other “seeing”. I can go back to shooting now, the weather is warming up a little. Summer shinza will be here soon. I will pass this year! I have signed up for a Tai Kai at Osakajo park dojo. It is the end of the month. It has been a while since I have gone to a Tai Kai outside of Kishiwada. I have not felt confident. I am better now and improving. This will help strengthen dojo ties, focus, form and be fun…I hope 🙂

…In the world of Sounds and beats.

I have been working on a couple of musical projects. Oh, wait did I tell you the drummer with the Sieki band quite. Not a big deal, I did not think he was that good. Ok in a limited scope. The leader has found a new guy. I do not know if he is long-term or filling in for the spring Shows. I hope he is a good player.

Then there is my stuff. I have a Komuso Shakuhachi memorial coming up this weekend. This is the one had to play at in front of the masters last year. to have my sponsorship announced. Now I am back,  I have been putting some extra time as possible. Trying to memorize the song. Having eye surgery and no job kept me time free to get some practice in. I decided this year to go with the long length Shakuhachi. At first the 2.0 now I am thinking the 2.5. The sound is much richer and fitting a shrine performance offering. Also, I seemed to have improved because now I can hit the higher notes. Sensei said to me today at my lesson. If you miss a note, let it go as part of the performance. In other words, It is done, let it go. Make the wind part of the note. In short, roll with it.
That’s something that every musician learns. Life is Zen, Music is Zen.

Life (Sound) is impermanence. When poo happens ( bad notes), learn and move on. The moment like the sound has faded away…Amitoufo

Ok, yeah I am doing the long flute. Another point today in class, I was shown more than told the answer to a question I did not ask but had been thinking about. Did I have to play the way it was written? No, I play what I feel, that is the point of an offering. I was corrected on a way I played a line at the Shakuhachi Club when I was giving a demo of me playing for the temple. Sensei gave me an example of playing the song as an offering in the temple. Much more in keeping with my thought, although much much better! LoL! So my main key to mind is playing to enjoy it, the feeling is more important than the notes!

 

The other project also involves the Shaku, but in a completely different setting. I had not been to the Ozaki Jazz society session in a while. I wanted to make a point of going this month. I organized 4 songs, to play. with whoever wanted to join. I also arranged for a friend who plays Mandolin to attend and another woman friend who attends regularly was going to be there. She agreed to play piano for me. I like her playing. So she and the mandolin player knew in advance what I wanted music wise. So I felt pretty set. The rest of the players could be sorted out on their parts as they felt them.

When I arrived it was quite crowded, I was surprised. Many faces I did not know. I greeted all I knew when I came in and had a seat near my friend. The session was lively and interesting. It was my turn…

I thought I had things all worked out about the sound. The last time I played the Shaku with a band I could not hear it well. I brought along a small amp and a clip-on mic holder, this time. I thought I was set. I explained things to the drummer and keyboardist how I wanted the beat and tempo. Turns out they both speak English, the keyboardist I knew did. I counted off and we started. slowly fleeing the groove. I got organized and stepped-up up to the mic for a note check. BLahhhh. Weak !  Weak! sadly weak I signaled to the MC for another mic to switch with the one I brought. We did a quick swap to the house system, I could sort of hear. I had to make do and just roll with it. I could not get into the feeling I wanted because I could barely hear myself, I am flat or off, or what. I suffered to hear. I could hear a few notes and I could hear some shouts of approval from the crowd. so I played on trying to hear by feeling, by sense. We made the timing change in the song it was a tricky part. The drummer blew it but we got past it and went into the next groove. I kept my Shakuhachi playing low-key, like background strings. Once in a while, I throw in a few solo bars notes. We made the tempo switch again this time the drummer really blew it, I was able to reset the time and get it back up to beat. Listening back on the video, it is not too bad. Some parts were even good. The attendees seemed to love it!

I was only able to do the one Shakuhachi song, then another song on the Bass, two total, because of the size of the attendees. No matter I found out what I needed to know, it was an experiment. It went well, it is no longer a question if I can play well enough or if I can pull it off mixing the sounds. The next issue is being heard. I mentioned that also to Sensei today. He told me the correct position to place a Mic and the best angle. I was way off-putting it at the end, it needs to be next to the mouth like a metal flute. Duh!!! ok, Now I know so it was a successful mission. Next, I will take it to the Blues club for a run. If the sound issue is solved I should be good to go. If you want to hear the cut-instrumental cut of the song, you can click here.

next return to the temple

 

 

Aftermath…this n that

 

Aftermath …this n that

It is a little over a week since I had my operation. It is remarkable the difference in the Vision in my left eye. When I compare it to the right now, which was better before than the left, I find it amazing that I was seeing reasonable at all. I do remember seeing a friend a couple of time in the park at not that much distance and also looking for family coming to visit at the train station and not being able to recognize their faces. Just more of an impression that it was them. Also some text on a box in the kitchen across the room I could not read, now I can. So it was a good thing to get the work done. The right eye is coming up next week. I am both looking forward to it and not. Rather I am looking forward to it being over and done with. I am also not so nervous about it since I know fully what to expect. Not really painful, but uncomfortable for a day or so. The drops 4 times a day is a hassle but, better than getting an infection. 
I went to Kyudo the other day the first time since the surgery. It was weird shooting with the glasses on, which I am supposed to wear for protection. A couple of people thought I was just wearing glasses and were surprised to see me wear them. I explained and they went ohhhhh. 
So the big question that was in my mind, does it affect my shooting. For sure I could see better on the left, however, it was not quite clear, as I saw just a bit of a double image or off image since my right is not balanced with my left. It is differently better but just off a bit. In a different way than before.
However, most importantly I could shoot and my hit average was up. Not only up I got more back to back shots. I finished at 60%. I do not credit all that with being able to see better, but with I am getting better at setting up the shot and maintaining how it supposes to be. Meaning my form is better, I believe. I am not going to go all nuts thinking I am making big progress because in the past I thought that way and the next time I shot I was lower. This time I was higher @ 60% than my last which was 50%. So if I can maintain that or increase I will feel, more confident about the Shinsa in June. I really want to pass in June as I feel it would honor Nogami Sensei since that is where it all started for me in Japan. To finally pass my Yondan there would be outstanding! So, I have to ganbarimasu! 
On another front, another item I wanted to do here in Japan was ceramics. I found a high-level sensei before however, he had retired, so that was a dead end. I found there was another ceramics “club” at the community center I was taking Japanese. My wife thought it may be to a beginner class, too housewifey for me. I did not bother going to check it out at all. Today I went there, I got the inspiration from going to the Budo expo to go check out. Not related but there was an Aikido class nearby I thought. I had heard back before there was one nearby, but also the ceramic clas. I had my wife call the center and yes there is a ceramic class and it was on a good day for me to go.
I went by there today and spoke with the sensei and introduce myself. I rode my bike which I was not supposed to do until I was fully healed. So I took some precautions to protect my eyes, and still, get some cardio exercise.

It is a very small group with me it would be 6 total over a couple of days and different times. I looked at some of the students work. Nothing great but some were a few nice pieces. I had taken photos of some of my past work, they were impressed.

I was shown the kiln and things were explained to me. I understood very little of all that was said enough though I felt welcome and could join when I wanted. Also, I could pretty much do whatever project I wanted. Help advice was available if I wanted. It was nice. It was also limited as there were no real wheels in use. Mostly hand building with a small hand turned wheel. However a fair supply of glazes. It made me realize how much I learned when I took the class back in college. Mixing the powders of my own glaze, using wheels, also Hand building, coiling, and slab. I was comfortable with it all. All the work done here would be by hand building, which was ok. That is how I started. I can also do that at home. So yeah, cool. I have a couple of projects in mind, I will not need to rush, so I can really take my time and work as I see fit. I want to make a couple of pieces for my garden and not houseware stuff, like before, bowls, sake containers, the like. I still have my tools which I brought from the states. So I am looking forward to it. Yeah, another something else to do. But hey, I am here to live and enjoyed the best I can with what time is left. So Kyudo, Shakuhachi, Zen training via SuiZen and some contact with my Chan teacher in Taiwan, plus the band, some occasional work, some occasional sailing. A blessed life here in Japan. If I can add some Kung Fu teaching of some type, and training it would all be perfect. But little by little, small steps. For the amount of time I have been here, it is quite a lot. I really should be looking for some more income, but I have spent most of my life chasing that, now is my time to chase my arts, with my lifetime left. With the blessing of the Universe, I should have at least another 10 -15 years left.
I will plan on starting the ceramics in May, after returning from Hawaii. The day and time is perfect and will not interfere with my shakuhachi class or when I am working during the summer back with the silver center. I believe that if I need to miss a day or time I can switch up with another since it is the same sensei running the whole program. 
Next is to find an Aikido or something club/class or even better a place for me to teach and students, that would be wonderful and the icing. I may have a place to teach, maybe. There is a new community center opening just around the corner from us, also a Sempai in the Shakuhachi group is an Abbott of a temple not too far away. Then there would be finding students. I would even give free TaiChi classes to seniors if there was interest as part of spread Buddhist dharma. It is not really about the money, same as teaching Kyudo, it is not the money. In fact, one does not pay for Kyudo instruction. You pay for club membership, space, not the lessons.
The Band.
The band has lost the drummer. Not really a big deal. I did not think he was that good anyway. Not versatile, and zero funk feel. The guitarist is on the search for one. I have spoken with the drummer I played with in the Doc’s band. He really wants something convenient for him and does not want to travel, bit says he wants to play. Also can not practice not after April 7 th, as he is involved with local politics. Hmmm, he is an option if we really cannot find someone for the gigs we have in Last April and early May. Another is to use the current guitarist on drums. I think his beat is better than the former drummer and his guitar work is ok, but not great. With him on drums and our current keyboard player, we could carry on, even sometimes use my dummy machine. My last major band in the states did not have a drummer, we played with an electronic drummer. The one that I have not is more advanced than what we had at that time. Anyway, we’ll see what the universe brings in with the tide…Amitoufo

Out -n- about…Osaka Budo Expo


Out and about…

 
Osaka Budo Expo
 
Since I have been here, every year I see a poster at the Kyudojo about a Japanese Budo expo. I think oh, interesting …but never go. This year I change that and made a point to attend. They have most of the major Japanese Martial Arts Demo’d, Karate, Judo, Shorinji Kempo, Naginata (なぎなた, 薙刀), Iaidō (居合道), and Kyudo. Of course my main interest was the Kyudo. Even though it was nothing I had not seen so I thought. There was no Aikido which was a surprise. 
 
I was up and out of the house to get there early and not miss anything. My wife had given me directions and a Google GPS map. I figured I was set. I arrived to the train station with no problem. It was like going to the immigration office so I was familiar with the route. I asked the train personnel at the counter which way to go, once I arrived at the exit. He told me and off I went. I followed the GPS map. It was fairly simple. I followed the yellow brick road so to speak, because the route marked turned and circled. I could see a dome shape off in the near distance, that is I where I was headed, I thought. The path marked circled around this mound, small mountain like thing up to this dome. I walked and walked, round and around this mountain. I got to the top but the path just circled back to where I started. There was no way to the top dome I was looking at. WT fudge I thought. This must be off. I could see another dome shape nearby and then another dome-building just off from that. I had passed that building on the way there. It said Pool! Hmmmm, I thought , It must be in that place. I walked I’ve to it. The door I was at was Locked. Hmmmm. I walked around the building trying every door. All, were locked. Hmmmm. Strange I thought I have seen no crowds or groups of people. Hmmmm. I was back near the train station entrance. I thought about just canceling the trip, and go ok, forget it! But no. I never do that so easily. I looked around and read some of the posted park markers, and billboards. Everything pointed back to where I was the first time. I looked over that way toward the dome. I could see some people movement, not a lot but a couple of people. Ok, I will try it again I thought. I walked and made the climb again. This time going in another direction to the top, I looked over the side of the path and I could see people and windows and development below. Ohhh. I get it. The place is inside this mountain, but I saw no way to enter. I walked and walked. Finally, I saw a man walking from the top dome where I was before. I asked how do I get inside the mountain. He says the entrance is on the other side. Ehhhhhhh! I say, Hmmm. He tells me to follow him. He takes me around to the other side and points down to the entrance. Ahhhhhhhhh soouuu! I thank him. If I had stayed on the street instead of following the GPS main route I would have seen it. As it was I was in the right place but on top of the building which was mostly underground!
 
I made my way inside. I went to the main arena. There was an event there but it was some kids soccer game. I thought weird !? I sat a bit and watched, bored and feeling lost. I also needed to put in my eye drops. I decided to move. I went back out into the lobby /entrance area to get a seat for my eye drops. However, the seat I had before spotted was taken. Which turned out to be a good thing. I was looking around for a spot to sit, I notice a couple of women also looking around. I could not hear what they were saying but I got the sense they were also looking for the Budo expo. They stopped a cleaning person and asked something. He took them to outside the door and pointed off to the side then downward. Ohhhh, I thought, I bet that is where they are going! I went outside and looked around, I saw a small signage that said kendojo and judojo B3, I was on B2, there was also an arrow pointing same as the man did. I went that way and finally found the correct location. Wow, what journey. I saw some judo people and others. I walked around looking, I saw a man dressed in a formal old style archery suit. I asked about Kyudo. He said it was over!! Grrrr, crap I thought! Ok, I might as well make the best of my time now and watch some of the other demos. 
 
I sat just outside of the show area and use my eye medicine. While sitting there a man comes over to me and hands me a program and notebook. I thank him, he leaves. I am looking it over when I notice Watase Sensei from my Dojo. He has dressed also in the old school formal wear. I go to him and greet him. He asks did I see things. I said I was late and got lost. He laughed a bit. I bowed and returned to my seat. He continued to speak with the people he was with. 
After a while, I went into the show area and took a seat on the floor off to the side. Where I could see. I wanted to go to the balcony but from where I was I did not see anyone up there. So I gave up that thought, thinking this is all there is. My spot on the floor off from the seating area was good, could see well. I sat there taking pictures and enjoying the demos.
After a while, I notice another Sensei I like from my school. I wave and bow to her, she returns the greeting and smiles on her way past me. I watch the rest of the show and Photograph. It was interesting to watch. Some of the things I had not seen live before. The Shorinji Kempo was impressive as were the women with the naginata (なぎなた, 薙刀). Most of the demos were interesting, the one with the rifle like weapons, bayonet fighting, not so much. Nor was the Judo, I did not go into watch Judo earlier.
 
Overall it made me miss training Kung Fu with my classmates. There is an emotional difference in training with the Kyudo group from training with the partnering, physical contact training. Makes me want to find art here to train with. I find Aikido interesting and always wanted to do that. However at my age, the bouncing off the floor part is not appealing, however, the philosophy of Aikido is interesting, very Tai Chi like and the grappling is Chin Na. I found the “Jo” demo interesting, that maybe something to give more thought to. It would go well with my Kung Fu staff training and Kali. Something to give some thought to for later. I need to get to where I want to be with my Kyudo first. I had thought about when I reach 70, take to up Aikido. Late in life but I heard, read that it can still be done even at 80. Hmmmm, it would help maintain body conditioning. Anyway, I will give it more thought, maybe look into what is in my area. Time is short and growing less every day. “Time waits for no one…Rolling Stones”
 
I am glad I made the effort to go this year to the Expo. As the demo was ending, I see Yamasta Sensei coming by, he is also dressed old school. We greet each other, he thanks me for attending. I will attend next year, and now that I know where it is, I will arrive on time to see the Kyudo. I did get to see a filming of the shooting. A friend from another Kyudo class was upstairs in the balcony filming. Turns out I guess the seating upstairs was not visible from the downstairs entrance. I got to see Yamashita Sensei shoot in the film clip.