Return to Paradise….the adventure begins
Return to Paradise….the adventure begins
…sometimes you are the statue!
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.
There are not many people in your life or have come into your life that you can say made a big difference in the course of it, for good. That can stand out. Also not just your life but in the lives of many. Usually, in my case at least it is an older person. An Uncle, teacher, coach. Rarely is it a peer. Rarely does one think of any of their hanging out buds as great people. I do not mean great as far as a cool friend, I mean great as to humanity. It is rare to know someone who has helped change many lives positively.
I had the honor and blessing of knowing one such man. He recently passed away. A shocking wakeup to impermanence. I have been reading over the posts to his FB pages and I am continually touched by the remembrances from his students and friends. His name was Steven Baugh (Da Shi ChuanSheng). We trained Northern Shaolin Tai Chi Praying Mantis together since the ’70s. Even though I was his technically elder brother, I held great respect for him as did everyone. I watched him develop his art through the years and expand beyond just the several styles of martial aspects of study. He returned to the basic roots of Spiritual Shaolin and studied deeply the spiritual side of Chinese Budo. He studied and graduated as a priest from the Hsu Yun Chan Buddhist temple in Hawaii and afterward founded the Lohan Buddhist temple – Spiritual and cultural center in Las Vegas. He was already schooled in Taoism and Native American spiritual practices. Being part Native American he had inside access to that training path.
His past, training, studies, and heart gave him insight and connection to the minority community, which in many cases is overlooked when spiritual teachers are going public in Mainstream America. He told me once his teacher told him to go back to the mainland from Hawaii and teach because he was able to reach out to a large variety of people. If one saw his school, students and temple members, one could see this right off.
Once I moved to Japan, I had little thought I would see him again. I found out later that we had one of the same Chan teachers, and she held him as one of her favorites. Saying she had little to teach him as he was already deeply knowledgable. I found out he was coming to Osaka as a treat from one of his student’s who’s wife is from Japan. We arranged to meet up, and that marked a serious changed in my Chan path even after over 10 yrs of study and later became ordained through him in the Buddhist Order of Hsu Yun.
For the past three days since his passing, I have been usually sensitive and mournful. It took me some thought to figure out it had to do with not just losing a friend, kung fu brother, but my abbot. I received direct dharma transmission from him. That gave us a different, more Spiritually Psychic connection, I am guessing. I suffered a grave sense of loss at times over the 3 days. I made a pilgrimage to a local Buddhist/Shinto temple complex yesterday. I prayed at each of the Statues, burnt incense, and played Tamuke ( a Komuso offering song for the departed ), tearing up partway into the song unable to finish. However, it was enough. I was told by my Shakuhachi Sensei it is not important to play the whole song in this type of case. I recalled my first really public playing was as a “thank you” offering at the temple after my ordination.
This post this time is about something, someone more important than me. My Abbot, my brother, my friend ( 35 yrs + ). May you have completed all cycles and now be free of suffering.
Most who chance to read this, will not know who he was or will it matter. However, it matters to me in some small way I can honor him and ease some of my sadness with this post.
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
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. X
next return to the temple
Back to the clinic. After the patch was removed. I was cleaned and checked, given more drops, asked questions, rechecked. I was asked how my vision was. I had a little difficulty opening my eyes fully but I could do it and I was shocked how clear my sight was on that eye. More drops, waiting, checks. At one point another man spoke with me who just also had the operation the same day as me. I was also good. I was given new drops to take home, protection glasses, and a night shield, more instructions, and my bill. Because we are low income we have another government discount. The same we received when I had my dental work done. Which in the US would have cost me $5-10,000.00. No matter what procedure within a month, my cost would be about $380.00. Pharmacy stuff like drops and glasses where extra but they were only about $15.00 U.S.. My next operation is in two weeks within the month period, so I have no other medical cost for this. With our standard medical it would have come to about $1,200. U.S. there are some good points to being low income in Japan if you can live simple. My U.S. SS income is not counted toward our income support. So to the government here, we live off of my wife’s part-time work and my part-time work.
Tues was Kimono day again. It was cold, I was close to not going, but discipline kicked in and I got off my rusty dusty bum and bundled up and got ready to go. I found out as I was packing I had still left my Juban in the washer so it was not dry. Grrr bummer. Ok, I made sure I had everything else and just packed my gi in the bag and took off. The good thing about that was I could really dress warmly. I arrived on time, just a little early. I greeted my buds I did not see over the weekend that did not come to the Hatsukai, then dressed. I noticed for the first time that I am usually the only guy in the class, other than one or two of the sensei generally. Today it was just one of the sensei. It was a fairly small class. 6 or 7 of us including two Sensei. The method of selection for shooting line up is by choosing a ya. Someone holds all the people involved’s Ya. They are held behind their back then picked and placed on the floor in shooting order. Today I was last ochi (?). For this, it did not matter. It was as good as anything.
I did not give much thought to if I would hit or not. I just did what I was supposed to focus and shot! Bam hit a loud hit. Nice. Then a wait. My turn again. Draw focus release…Bam another hit. Surprised me as well. More so since I did so bad at the tourny.
After the shooting, we get critiqued. Mine was when doing the Kimono I should have turned with the person in front of me, not the lead person. When I did it I thought it was wrong, but I was already committed. So now I know for sure. the other thing was my eyes did not follow the ya directly when doing the look at the mato part. I was told I look up then back to the ya. Hmmm I did not remember doing that, but I made a note not to do it. Otherwise, I was good., Yatta!!
Next round I was with a Sensei doing the checking. That is also training. Seeing what others do correctly or not. I usually am a little hesitant about doing it, because I am good in Japanese and I do not remember or know everyone name, even after all this time. I am still bad with Japanese names. On a side note, today I learn two names and made a point of remembering them when I heard them. I pointed out a couple of things I noticed when the others shot. Ok I was done.
Next, we practiced entry because overall it was not perfect at times. I was called out due to my steps when making the turn onto the floor after bowing. So everyone went over that together, until we all got it right. It is a good class, we work on some small detail at times so we all get things right. It is not just a shooting class. In fact, we rarely spend time on only shooting in the Kimono class. it is mostly tai hai.
It was a good class, learned some things had some fun with my friends. I feel quite comfortable with everyone. Even though my Japanese is poor we communicate and sometimes I give them a little English lesson.
I only got to actually shoot twice. Did not want to stay after class, I was hungry and cold so after a couple of hours I changed and went home. However, I was very glad I came and did not wimp out and stay home. I got a 100% hit on my shoots. Even though I only shot twice, both were hits! I thought, ok, yeah I guess I am making some improvement, back to back hits is what I need. Even though I sucked the other day at the tourny, I did the same a week earlier but three back to back.
Tues …was Kimono day practice. It was COLD COLD. It could have been worse at the Shrine dojo, besides not being open. So glad that worked out this way. So this day Ishibashi Sensi was going to run the class no one else was there. I thought at first there was not going to be a session that day. When I arrived it was almost just me, and the others who came in later did not have on Kimono. Shacho and Sato Sensei was not there, but there was still to be a class, but Ishibashi was running it. So what is funny is he is from the Shrine Dojo, not Kishiwada.
“Somedays you are the windshield”…
So I was feeling pretty good about my last couple of practice sessions. I felt I was on the right track and finally things were falling in to place. I still needed work but I was heading in the right direction.
The next event was today. the Hatsukai, first shooting of the year. It was held at our dojo and usually is just an inner dojo event. small. I knew it was going to be small because it started at 1:00 pm. The dojo closed at 5:00.
It was a COLD day! brrr yuk! I dressed best as possible. I wore my kimono, it was a better idea rather than change. The other thing about the day beside cold, it was raining. So I had rain and cold to deal with. I was able to cover up pretty well with my raincoat, I did not have to carry anything but a small bag for stuff. With umbrella in hand, I set out for the dojo. Fairly warm and dry. the rain had stopped for the moment.
I arrive just a little paranoid that I had read the sign wrong and it did not start at 1:00 but early in the morning. I pushed that thought to the rear and keep on moving through the flashes. I arrived on time, plenty of time in fact. I timed it right. Had time to get in a couple of Makiwara shots, I could have done the mato, but I did not want to be in the way as they were starting to set up for the Hatsu -Raikai. It was COLD inside the dojo and even fewer people than I thought turned out. Ok, enough though to be fun. A couple of my buds were there.
I had been asked to do something, so I thought a few days earlier at the Raekai. I did not understand what. So I was expecting someone to tell me something. I watched, waited and took photos as usual. No one said anything, ok. Not really disa pointed. The only time I was called was to join my group section to shoot.
We started with the usual formalities and a Sensei shooting the single mato. Then two sensei did, hitomato. One Mato two shooters. That was different from usual. That was followed by regular students in groups of three but two groups at a time. Usually, we start with the tournament timing, but today we started with Shinsa timing. Afterward came the tourny timing but with only two arrows, not four. That was also different. I figured they wanted to be sure to finish in time. That was followed but tourny timing but with a mix of targets, mato and smaller. This time with a single arrow but two rounds. So far I am zero for 3. Next section was back to standard mato but only 1 ya. Then everyone shoots around but only those who hit come back for another shot.
I am 0 for 4 or is it 4 for 0? I am not a sports guy. Anyway, I got zip. One of maybe 3 people who hits nothing for the day! 😦
Ok we line up and prizes were given out for the hitters. Then a large plastic bag is brought out, everyone was called up to pick something out of the bag. As I did not know what was going on, I was quite surprised when I heard my name and was told to pick from the bag. Ok, I dug in an pulled out a small package. After everyone had picked, we were told to open the packages. I still did not know I just watched a followed. I opened mine it was a package of hand warmer pads. They come in handy. I intended to bring one with me for the day. People here put them in their waistbands front or back. to help stay warm. I noticed some people had post-it notes and there were some on the “gifts” still out. Still uncertain what was going on, I turned my package over and found a sticker on the bottom. hmmm. ok, mine was blank, but I turned it over and there was a number. I asked a sensei, what is this about? ( but not like that). He told me showed me what was up. I found an item with my number. Ohhhh. I get now. Ok. I got a prize for my pick out of the bag. The entrance fee this year was high, usually 300 yen, this time 800 yen (about $8.00). so there were some good winning for the shooters plus some decent things for the grab bag. My prize, I do not know what it was it was packaged up and I did not open it. I think it was a Yumi cover. Whatever it was it was pink and flowery. Yuk I thought, jheeze what will I do with this? I started to walk when I spotted my friend who was having a good day. I walked over and showed her my “prize” ! She looked and said ohhh pretty, I said “it is yours” Ehhh? she says. I say you like pink right, then this is a Christmas present for you. She was delighted!
So that was it for my day. No hits, all misses, even with the draw prize, except for the heat pads.
“Somedays you are the bug”
Session by the Sea
I had a gig a week earlier at Chicago Rock. I was part of a trio that the Chicago Rock Master had assembled. We had no rehearsal and no song list before the show. We three had played together once before again with no rehearsal just did it off the cuff. The other time we had Jo-San the keyboard player, this time no. Still even though very very loud it went over well. I was told to turn up my bass. That is really different! I neede to turn it up so it could be heard in the sitting room. In Chicago Rock, one small room is where the band is, the stage of sorts. The other room is where the people sit and drink. I had to turn up so loud it sounded distorted coming out of the amp. I did some recording that night, but because the Bass was so loud and the smartphone mic was not able to handle it, it sounded crappy when I played back. Generally, we, the band sounded pretty good, but the distortion was BAD on the recording. Which is really too bad a couple of songs we actually sounded good on! I am not sure what will happen with this group if I will play again? Nothing was said and I left pretty soon after we finished. I did not even stick around to see if there was enough income money to pay us. I chatted with a woman singer, for a short time who spoke some English. Then I took off for home. It was a good night.
Ok last on the music train. My friend the Percussionist, contacted me the other day. The day before the Snafkin session asking me to come by a show he was doing nearby my home. Usually, when I am invited it is to play something. however, nothing was said about me playing, So I was not sure. I was thinking maybe he just wants some body support at the show. However, I thought hmm ok, maybe I should bring my Shakuhachi just in case I am asked to do a ( one) song.