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… Kyudo at ChoZenji

 

Return to Paradise… Kyudo at ChoZenji

Sat came around there was morning classes at ChoZenji, but no evening stuff, zero on the weekend at night. Overall the amount of classes is limited. Maybe due to the are taught by volunteers.  Sat. during the day there was an array of classes at the center’s dojo. After the sitting of course, there was flower arranging, calligraphy, Aikido and “zen” archery .

I arrive at the Center early and sat in the community room, with several of the others. Everyone was introduced and what they did. An archery person was introduced. I said, oh you will be teaching the archery. He was a bit surprised and said. “I am just a student”…
The young head priest, (remember this guy he will come up later) says. Oh, you might as well teach, since Honda Roshi is traveling! Honda Roshi is the main guy for Kyudo also he is a Shakuhachi sensei. He is the one I really really wanted to see while there at the center. Major bummer he was not returning until next week!! Crap! Yet another downer! Anyway, after some chit chat with another senior there who was doing Aikido, I think or something. We all went to the main Hall to do Zazen. This time I had no problem with posture, only with my leg falling asleep, but that happens. 
Afterward, everyone split up and went to what class they were doing. I noticed the Archery guy went to the Kyudojo. The Young priest says to me there is a flower arranging class and demo being held, you can attend. I said, what about the archery? He replied oh, with Honda Roshi traveling it maybe not be a good day for that! Then he walks off. Humph, I thought, I will see about that and went to the Kyudojo, to speak with the guy who opened it up. Kyudo, Tai Chi, Shakuhachi was my whole purpose for coming. Yet I kept getting cut and shorted out from attending. I was not about to just take it with no questions. Sometimes you got to flow and sometimes you gotta take a stand. The bamboo bends but it has deep roots. In Tai Chi we bend to power but we stay rooted.
The Archery was getting set up when I came over. I explained to him my interest and background. He said well you can shoot with us no problem. I asked if I could do Kyudo not western archery, I’ve been there did that not really interested. He said sure, you can just go for it and not follow us. We ( him and one other guy, Les who had helped me before when first starting the Zazen) will just do our routine. We shoot about 12 arrows, then do the ChoZenji 10 step TaiChi, then shoot 12 again, then TaiChi, then repeat. This was explained by the other person, Les, who was I found out later is a senior, and that ran the Tai Chi Class. He had some other background in TaiChi I found out, and said he did a little Kyudo before and still had a glove. However, had not shot in a long time. Les was quite talkative, nice and helpful. He had been there for a long time and knew the founder and had trained Zen under him. As it also turned out he was familiar with my Chan teacher Zing Ming. He asked me are you also a priest? I saw you wearing a Rakuso, which I wore the first couple of days! He then went on to tell me his wife was friends with a white woman who went to China and became ordained, who lived in Las Vegas. Wow! I was shocked. I got a few interesting stories about the late master there from Les. We developed a connection.

Ok, so they got set up as did I. The equipment was funky! I found a bow I could use, however, I needed to re-tie the string. It was way too loose! The bow would flip around to it’s unstrung state when I shot. That took some time to correct. Next I had to find arrows. The only ones near my length were Makiwara ya, with Makiwara feathers. Sigh. After trying to shoot them and not have them not go near where I was aiming to shoot, I looked for some different ones. There was another set of range mato arrows, however, they were short for me, quite short, since I had no other choice than the markiwara ya, I figured I would try at least. With a lot of conscious effort, I was able to shoot. As I drew the bow I had to keep touching the tip of the arrow to see how far I had left to draw safely. Then I needed to compensate my right pull to be able to straighten my left arm as it should be. I was able to make a couple of hits, after much effort. It was a challenge but I was able to pull it off being fully mindful of what I was doing. I guess in a way it was helpful because I had to really pay attention to all parts of my draw.

The others continued with their shooting. A woman joined us. So the three of them did western shooting I did Japanese. In order to maintain harmony with the flow of shooting and fetching the arrows, I set my timing with them so everyone could retrieve their arrows at the same time. They shot 12 arrows to my 2. Their twelve arrows time also included them doing their weird funky, to me, Tai Chi. Which should have not even been called Tai Chi! I was told the founding master had learned Tai Chi Chuan in China. He was very accomplished in many Budo arts. He had several high ranks in Judo, Kendo, Karate, maybe more things which I can not recall. It is said he was a martial art genius.

He took what he considered the most important elements of the long form of Tai Chi Chuan and condensed it down to 10 steps. It was not supposed to be a Budo from, but a way to build “Chi/Ki” and focus the mind and spirit for shooting or whatever. There was also a loud Kiai in the form at times. It was a Zen tool for them, not a “Budo” or even a health art. Ok, I thought it was lame watching them do it, but that was just my opinion and perhaps a reflection of their skill. Either way, it was just my opinion which does not matter. So yeah, their 12 shots to my 2 shots. Kind of funny when you think about. I reflected at one point that my going through one cycle of Shooting with the correct breath, grounded stance, mindfulness was much more centering, calming, a release of attachments, focusing, Ki building than the soft karate they were doing. Just my opinion. If it worked for them, the program and the master…so be it! This went on for about an hour.

It was brought up at some point, not by me that maybe I could come In and shoot on my own since the Kyudojo was not being used much and I was coming back on Monday for an early class plus later that evening or another class. It made sense I could just hang out there and practice on my own, no one would be there using it. I thought as well it would be great. I had seen a back room where there were longer Ya so I thought ahhh! That would be cool! I would ask. We closed up the Dojo and I was shown how to put things away.

Les and I chatted for a while about, Tai Chi and his current Tai Chi teacher. Not the current in change person there. This was someone the founder or ex-master recommend he train with or something like that, to learn full Tai Chi. Anyway, he was I find out the person there at Chozenji that runs the Tai Chi class. I would join this class on Monday. Anyway, we spoke of misc martial things and training there at Chozenji. The difference between the old ways with the founder and former master and the current young admin, and his sometimes displeasure, with the new “way”. Also the strong point of the Martial art training there was Kendo/Hojo. A Shotokan Karate class was just added fro Sunday’s.

Afterward, I went back to the community room to gather my stuff to go to my hotel. The young head priest in charge since the master was traveling was there. When I came in he says. Oh, so you got to shoot! How was it? I said it was challenging, I had some issues with equipment. He replies I learned early on it is not the equipment but the shooter!

I took a breath…and replied, gently. I was feeling/reading a certain “vibe” from his comment. One could say the hairs on the back of my neck bristled a bit. I deepened my breath and then spoke. Yes, that is true, except in the case of safety and being the wrong equipment for me. The arrows were way too short, the string was not tied correctly. If I did not take care and make adjustments I or someone could have lost an eye or gotten otherwise injured. However, I did make it work, as I said it was just a challenge. My reply was not in a mean or a smart-ass way as he was in charge. I was respectful.

 

Next, I say, ahh since you are here I have a few questions, is that ok? He says ok, so I continue. Since we are talking Kyudo …I will be back on Monday for the early morning class and then that evening for the Tai Chi class. Is it possible for me to just hang out here and practice on my own? He says… I do not think that is a good idea. We have ways set, and it is better to have someone there who knows our way and rules. We do not want to get into just letting people come in and do their own thing. So not really a good idea. Ok, I say and drop the subject. 
I roll to the next question…

I ask; the music you were playing the other night, that was not a Honkyoku was it? Now he replies, that was something from Honda Sensei, we play Shakuhachi as Zen tool, not as a musical instrument. We use it to develop breath and the like. Some times blowing until we completely empty the full breath, not in keeping with a musical piece. It is ChoZenji Shakuhachi not a music piece like most people play these days. Me: again a breath and reply hmmm Honkyoku are Zen pieces. He said, not with most people I know, most I encounter they are playing as them as music. Honda sensei says one can play one note your whole life to work on getting it right, developing it fully, as Zen training. It is about breath and mindfulness… I say slowly “those you have met in your circle”. Yes, he says in my circle. I drop the subject again.

I move on to safer ground.

The next thing I ask is about some books that are there, earlier had I noticed for sale. In Hindsight, maybe I should have started with that question first. A couple of the books are about the founder, the late master. His background and philosophy. Basically how ChoZenji came to be as it is. One of the books is a recent publication. He also shows me a couple of smaller older books. He suggests if you are interested in purchasing I would recommend these two. I thanked him and asked if it was cash only or could I charge it? Charging was ok, I am told.

I next asked about making a donation, I saw envelopes. I was told where to do it. Donations were not something that they pushed on people. The person had to want to make it enough that they asked about to do it. Ohhh, different from other places. Ok, Thanks. Or maybe this would have been a good starting place first. Oh well.

I made the arrangement and purchase via his “girlfriend” I believe she is, from watching how she serves him lunch, maybe, maybe not, but I got that vibe. She is the first person I was dealing with when I was arranging to visit and did my orientation and gave me the tour. She was nice enough I thought at the time. Even though she would not let me join right into the Zazen when I arrive, therefore wasting a day. She was fairly pleasant and professional.

I went back to the hotel afterward not feeling pleased with the whole exchange. Feeling like this guy has an attitude. Not extreme, but it is there. I told my wife she thought it was the typical White vs Black attitude he had, that many have. He was being hateful. I was not so sure about that. Attitude yes, but racial, not so sure. More of a, I know it all, I am in power type of attitude.

The more I thought about it the more I was irked about it, and not just him, but the sense I felt there. Having traveled from Japan to experience the center I felt they should be a bit more accommodating. I asked to attend a Zazen session on my first day. I said I had the experience,  I could follow along fairly easy. But was told no! I had to wait until the proper orientation class. In which it took all of 15 min or less for her to explain things and was the only one attending the intro class. Therefore causing, me to waste a whole day of the trip and miss a class I wanted. Now this, with the denial of grounds use, so I would not have to spend hours traveling back and forth to the dojo. Hmmm. Not really helpful folks, are they.  I thought more and got more irked, however also came the thought. Why should it be all about you (me) why should I get special treatment, just because I traveled a long way? That was an ego minded thought. One thing came to mind often during this thought process was something I was told in the beginning ” we here are more in the Japanese tradition than Hawaiian tradition.” Also recalling something I read about they do not encourage just casual visitors or something like that.

“we discourage tourists and recreational visitors from attending zazen or class.”

Just because I did not consider myself a recreational visitor, does not mean the same to them.

With that thought came the ahhh moment! Hawaiian style is laid back, more flexible. Japanese are not flexible, the rule, the way is the way. It can not be changed! Although they are doing just that with their Kyudo, Tai Chi, junk food treats and meals. It is still their way, their “DO“! What an ego, I had to make things about me, I am nothing, but a passing visitor to their home, center, Way ( Do ). Ok, my bad…

Once that clicked in place. I was able to let the negative thoughts go…mostly. When I told my wife that she said ahh yes, he is not being mean he is following the Japanese way. He is in charge and has to follow the rules.

Still though…a bit of compassion and consideration goes a long ways…Amituofo

Next off to Hsu Yun Chan Buddhist temple…

 

Return to Paradise…finally Kyudo

Once again, I just killed time in the hotel. A little Tv, and some napping, well, a lot sleeping. I was surprised at how much napping. I think I went out and did a little shopping for some misc stuff. Nothing important at all, it was just a kicking back day. Waiting to go to visit the Hawaii Kyudokai.

Finally, the time came and I set out again on the bus. Bus rides give one the real view of the locals, not the well off, or the very comfortable. The bus has everyday people. The Kyudokai was located in the Soto mission. I am not sure if it was a Soto Zen temple or just what it was, maybe just some kind of school, or academy just named Soto.
Anyway, I found the place with not too much effort. The Kyudo Kai club was meeting in the basement of the community center. When I entered I was approached by a couple of people. It took me a while to explain who I was and who I had spoken too. I dug up the email, Someone named “Ai” via email and an introduction through other Kyudo friends. I was told by the elder there I could change and join the group.

I was told early by the person I had spoken with via email that there was a special second part of a beginners class being held that night. I would not get to shoot the indoor distance range they had set up most likely, but I could use the Makiwara! Ok, I figured it was better than nothing. More so since the shooting at ChoZenji seems unlikely, with the Master out of town and them really doing western archery. So, while I was changing I found out the person I had spoken with was a girl. A very energetic young lady I was told, who arrived while I was changing. When I came out we met. She was Japanese, and very nice, a happy sort of person. We exchanged greetings and I also spoke with another Japanese lady and some guy. People were nice, I was asked by a couple of people if I had shot before. I simply said yes in Japan, I still practice there. Ohh, was their surprise.

Class started we lined up and I was pleased and surprised to find they did a few minutes of meditation before shooting. Ahhh, it was like the old days back shooting with the Shibata group and Rick Beal Sensei’s group. I liked it. Next, there were announcements, I was one of them. A visitor from Japan, would I do a demo? Ehhhhhh! Not expecting that, reluctantly I said ok.

Then more talking and answering questions which were submitted from the newbies. Ai-Chan was a good leader, she explained things well and very down to earth. I found out later she was not a Renshi, which I thought but a Yondan. The only Sensei was the elder I spoke with when entering. He though was not a Renshi with the Federation. So I am not sure where he learned. Ai-Chan I found out later from her learned in Japan, she was only in Hawaii for about 6 years. The same amount of time I had been in Japan. Sort of we traded places We laughed about that later as she gave me a ride back to the hotel.

Ok, so the explaining went on, finally another Japanese woman said to Ai-Chan it was getting late they should start the training…Ai-chan was energetic about talking.

 

However first the seniors there were going to shoot for the new folks, a demo. I was asked to shoot with Ai-Chan. Hmmmm ok. We shot last after the first group of three. I did sadly I thought. Form-wise I was ok, but my first time there… I was fairly off target, also our Tai Kai was not together. It did not matter as it was somewhat casual, and the new folks knew nothing anyway.
After that, they started to train the new people, as it turned out there was so many I did not have a bow to use the Makiwara. I Just sort of missed out, the theme mostly for the trip it seemed.

Having no bow, I just stayed off to the side in front of the mirror and practice with my imaginary Yumi. Watching my shoulders. Feeling my alignment, making the best of the time…yup, rolling with it!

Then the class was over.  A few people who had not earlier came over and asked me questions. Curious about me and Japan and how that happened. Friendly sort of stuff. Like I get in Japan but the reverse. I replied as we cleaned up to close for the night. I changed and meet up with a few of the old members in the parking lot. I was getting a ride to the hotel by Ai-Chan and we all just chatted in the lot. I was invited over for shooting at one of the member’s private dojo on Sunday. Cool, I thought, finally I can get some shooting in. I was not going to get the help with corrections I wanted but,  I would get to hang out and shoot. That was the next best thing.

So finally I was able to return to the hotel feeling pretty good about the trip. So far it had been meh and fairly disappointing. The training at Chozen was not what I had planned, or that interesting, interesting , but not that interesting. So far nothing of what I was hoping for. I would not go back on Friday. There was a Kendo class, which had no real interest in for a one-time thing and another 45 min Zazen. I did not need an Hour plus ride in both directions, to do Zazen, which I could do at the hotel.

So Friday I just spent the day at the hotel.

That evening went out with my wife to a restaurant and did the happy hour thing with her. The PuPu ( small meal, snacks) there was pretty good, we enjoyed those with a drink.

So day 4 and 5 were Pau ( Done/finished in Hawaiian).

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 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.

弓道 – The continuing long and winding road…

Long and winding road.

 
Before my eye surgery. I was starting to feel like I was making serious progress. Like things were coming together. With some tweaks here and there, I would ready for June Shinsa. A few days ago a went by the dojo. It was closed for a while due to repairs from the Typhoon. It is now re-opened. I went by, and shoot. Only a couple of people were there. For the most part other than some chit chat, I just got to practice. I did poorly. I worked at a few things, there was a slight betterment. It is not my eyes. I never really thought seriously that was the problem. However, if it did make a bit of difference with focusing. It was in my mind, due to the distraction of not seeing well. I can see clearly now, a bit of unfocus is there, but at my age it is normal. Maybe some to do with my eyes still healing. Anyway. I can see and I still do not hit! Hahahahaha
 

So Thurs I take my tired act to the dojo to practice in front of Watase Sensei, the main guy, my for real sensei. Always watching when I shoot. He is the head of our sector with the Federation although not the highest rank. Yamashita Sensei is the highest that I know of, connected to our school.
Yeah, so I arrive later than I planned. Not a problem. I thought I would just miss Sensei and just practice. Even though I wanted Sensei to check my shooting, at the same time I did not want him to. 
I am walking through the park on the last section before arriving at the dojo, I encounter a classmate, Emi-Chan. We chat a bit. She is testing for Yondan next week. She said had been practicing, there are still a few there practicing, including Watase Sensei, who was bugging her. We laughed. I understood, so it is not just me. He is always watching, correcting. It is good, but still “Urusai” ( bugsome)
Matane, we say as we walk on our ways. I go into the Dojo, greeting some long time no see friends and settle in. Sensei is busy shooting. Part of my task of the day is to restring my bow. The string broke the other day at practice, I didn’t replace it then. I do so today. Go to the side area and settle in for the task. I find out the string I am storing in case one breaks, which I did not have with me the other day. This string is not broken, but close to it, it is frayed. I did to prepare two string today. I have at it. It takes a while to do two strings. The group kept practicing, some left.
I am just about finished. Sensei comes down my side to go to the rear. We chat a bit, he askes about eye is it better now? Can train for the next Shinsa? Hai, Keiko, I say, more training!
 
I notice everyone is making ready to leave. I am asked what mato do I want to shoot? I pick one. I always have trouble with how to say. “I do not care, whatever.” I just now remember a way. Great I will use it next time.
With everyone leaving, I figure I will not change and just wear a dogi and shoot.
I warm up a bit then go out on the floor. Sensei is busy doing something with a wheel barrel going to the back area. I make ready to shoot. From the side o my eye, I can see him in the distance off to the side watching. 🙂 Arigatou sensei.
 
I continued with my shooting, badly for the next three sets of ya. I am feeling discussed with myself, but slowly trying to understand what am I doing so wrong. I make some corrections, thing improve some, bit still suck! Sensei comes over and watches, he tells me several things I am blowing. I thank him and continue to practice. I am back and forth, Makiwara to mato, Mato to Makiwara. Sensei asks me how many times do I come to the dojo, 2 times or 1 time? I say for now one, but I have a Makiwara at home I practice on. He nods.
 
I got a lot of info that day. All in Japanese of course. A lot of it, I did not understand, work for word. However, I understood the points being made. I will work on them hopefully it will bring me back up again, maybe higher.
I decided also to seek some extra help at least once. I recalled the sensei who spoke to me in English back at Kishiwada one time. I thought she was someone else, I found later just who she is, from the person I thought she was. I asked a friend at Sakai Dojo, was there a sensei Named Sato, who spoke English there. Yes. She said, bingo! I said I want to meet with her, I have spoken to her before she invited me to class me to NZ to a seminar. I want to meet with her here and look over my shooting and give me feedback, in English. In case I am missing something in Japanese. My friend says in May that Sato sensei and some other top guy from NZ will be here in May, I could speak with them both. I said great, I will contact you again after my stateside visit.
 
I have made arrangements to study a bit of Kyudo at Chozenji temple in Hawaii, also with the Hawaiian Kyudo Kai on my upcoming visit. I will also get in some Kung Fu practice time with Tai Chi Mantis family. It should be a good training pilgrimage.
That, plus meeting with these Kyudo Sensei In Sakai, and back to serious practice I should pass this summer’s Shinsa. Yosh!

“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