吹禅 – Lohan Shaolin Shakuhachi

Lohan Shorin Shakuhachi

My two-year of formal shakuhachi study was last month. I have yet to make my annual anniversary pilgrimage. It is coming though. I did have a small one of sorts. Rather unplanned.
I finished learning my second traditional Shakuhachi song this week. Golden week here in Japan. It was a struggle for me. The first two days I spent in pain and a numb mouth from dental work. Which was just hours before my scheduled Skype Lesson. I believe I already said this on my last post. So I will not again, if not, just imagine, numb mouth shakuhachi class. Next two-day a cold! Anyway, I persevered. My fellow Zen path follower was kind enough to teach me the song I needed to do a day with a Komuso upcoming later this month. I am grateful for the help to make the trip possible. Now I need practice! 
So any-who, I decided on Friday the weather was great, I was feeling almost 100% normal…for me. I make the choice to go out, get some practice in, some fresh air, some exercise. One of the things, that stuck me holding the shakuhachi was its feel as a weapon, having a martial art background. I read that some of the old Komuso, being former samurai also felt the connection with the shakuhachi as a weapon and they at time used it as such. With that in mind I had been thinking about training with it with a different mind-set. In my shaolin studies, we have a short staff “form” or kata as it is called in Japanese. This lends itself well to use of the shakuhachi as a a short staff. However, i was thinking more in terms of sword. I have a Tai Chi sword form I am re-learning, this I felt would be perfect for use with a shakuhachi instead of blade. In Japan I can not freely go out and practice with my swords as in the states. So I use a cane, or a collapsible sword or cheap meal. Both work , but lack a feel, which I am sure is a mental thing. I decided, practicing with a shakuhachi would give the practice a different feel, something unique. A different feeling than with a sword, but also different from a fake sword. That would be part of my practice for today. Physical, mental, spiritual, audio. Formless and form. I could also Practice Kali with the shakuhachi. But really unnecessary due to the nature of Kali. Also the limits of a two-part Shakuhachi. None of the training is really suitable for a two piece shakuhachi, however the Tai Chi jhian form is the least of being chanced harmful to the shakuhachi.

So I have my plan. Go to the temple grounds near our home. This is my favorite temple in the area, Chokei-ji. The grounds over look the area . I can see to the Osaka Bay from over by the large Bell, which is next to the grave yard. The place is usually quiet. I can practice some of the faces of Chan, in peace. Movement, stillness, sound, as well as take a few photos. Practice my photographic art. I wonder sometime from something LZ said if people think I like posting pictures of myself on FB. Really I have started being able to separate myself as the model and as me. The model is just there, because I need a subject or as part of the subject really more a prop. My photos are more about the shot than about me, or a graphic to support the story.

Off I set on the bike heading for the temple grounds. It is about a 10-15 min bike ride to the grounds. Then there is a climb of 100 steps to reach the main ground. It is said that a wish is granted after climbing the 100 steps at the main entrance. I also feel a charge going up the steps , then passing through the entrance gate with the two spirit guards on the sides. I am guessing the entrance is very very old from the looks of it.

I make the upward passage to the entrance, I bow and enter. Today I am being extra respectful as I have a motive from coming. I go to the main temple and to the incense burner and forever candle. I light a stick of incense I brought with me. I pass my Shakuhachi through the smoke of the incense after a small thanks of gratitude for the use of the grounds. Next to the altar and bell. I made an offering , bowed, small prayer. Now I felt I could do my practice, after giving respect to the spirits.
I went over to the large bell and changed my clothes. There I took few shoots, and practiced Tai Chi, hand and sword sets. Then I walked around a bit and took some more shots I thought would be interesting and fun. There were some that thought would be great, but I did not want to walk on certain parts of a pagoda, it did not seem proper. I was made more aware of that when I visited the Kyudojo in Kamakura and I was stopped from walking on an area near a prayer spot. This was also in my mind from watching the visitors there today. The pagodas had some meaning as they prayed at them. So I figured the best way is to avoid possible lost of face. I grabbed a few shots from here and there , changing my on some planned shots.
I picked a spot overlooking the main grounds and had lunch among the rocks. I was not sure if I should be eating there so I kept a low profile. Afterwards, I played the Shakuhachi songs I felt fit the place. One was the new song I am learning. My Sensei said when I go to visit temples, the amount that I have learned is proper and enough to pay as a “gift”, offering. I also played the new song I was just taught. I did not play long but what I felt was enough. Then just sat for a bit before making ready to go home.
This day was the first I had ever seen any of the temple staff. A couple were out doing gardening, another couple went in and out of the housing area. I watched them closely to see if I was doing something wrong. I was pretty much ignored the whole time.
After I had finished my audio shakuhachi practice and was packing my stuff. I did not think I was playing that loud, or noticeably. I thought I was pretty on the “under”. Someone came out of the housing area, a woman, on her way to someplace else. She looked over at me directly and did a small bow. I did not notice at first, she did it again, I returned the bow, she left.



This n that, that n this – Dec,

Wow, 2016 is almost over. Kind of scary if I think too much about it…”time waits for no one”. 
I have not said much about music world these days, not much happening. I have not been with the Doc’s Blues “band”. He is really into the “OverHeat club” me not so much, not at all in fact to be honest. I have said why so I will not repeat. Another reason is the Doc does not want to practice, he just wants to get high and have fun, not a drop of concern about how we sound. lets just have a good time is his only thought. He has admitted he is does not have a professional attitude…sigh. He is a Doc, he has never paid musical dues. Oh well.
Anyway speaking of music The Jazz band had an end of the year session on Christmas night. I went by and did a couple of songs. It has been several months since I have played there. They are nice folks. Everyone that knew me seemed pleased I was there. I got applause just walking in the door from those who knew me. The people who did not, seemed taken aback, by the attention, to some gaijin showing up and getting a hand just walking in the door. Kind of funny seeing some of the expressions. I just did a couple of songs in the blues realm, since that is where I am comfortable with no rehearsal and unknown players.
It worked out mostly well. I did one song at the piano and one song on the bass. Both went mostly well. The one on the Bass , “merry Christmas baby” I thought was fitting for a Christmas night. The ending was bad, as was one part in the middle. Which I expected. These folks are good players, but they lack “feel” for just playing from the gut and following. However their technical skills are good. If I had everything written out they would follow well. I did not, I gave them a basic cord chart and just let them do their best. While I kept it simple.
Anyway it was fun, and everyone seemed to like it.
One nice thing about this venue, is they have food. We pay 1,000 yen, to use the club. With that we get one free drink, and a small buffet.
I am always told what is ok, for me to eat (non- meat).
There was a surprise cake this time for the Christmas party. I went to the table to get a slice, but as I was there near, it was being chopped away. There was only two pieces left as I got up to plate. I gave my spot away, I did not want to take the last piece or get there as the last piece was given away. I sat back down. Surprise…The manager came over a few minutes later and gave me a slice from another cake they had stashed in the back. Way cool of him. He had before all this came over and gave me some type of sea food in a shell. He said, “but you eat seafood right’? I said …er…thanks but no!
It looked like a giant great snail!! I passed. I thought about what my Abbot had said about as a priest I am not suppose to refuse gifts. Hmm. Well sorry, I was not going there with that “thing”, it looked gross. If I was starving yeah, but since I was not…passed!
So that was my Christmas night.
Christmas day, at least the afternoon, I taught my Tai Chi student. Some practice time for me before-hand then class for him. 
Finally a student who seems serious. He is struggling and finding out it is not as easy as he thought. So far I am just having him do basic training. Stretching, Chi Gong, sitting meditation, stances, Tai Chi walk. He is not bad, but he is not good either. He wanted to do Shaolin Kung Fu. I suggest he train Tai Chi instead. At his age starting Shaolin will be difficult. He is in it for health, I steered him to TaiChi. Even there I do a fair about of external style training, stances, kicks, etc. It is not a YMCA- new age type training I have my Tai Chi students do. They train as a Martial Art with health benefits.
He needs work ( so do we all), however his attitude is good. Slow and steady he will do ok. I am not rushing him nor do I have reason or plan to do so. I see his pace for understanding and doing and will work within that.
Christmas Eve, I spent some of it at the Kyudojo. It was not crowded, but not empty either. A few of the regulars were there for a while. I mostly just work. On my form. There was one of my Sempai-Sensei there who gave me a few pointers. The main one was I was not lined up properly with the mato when shooting. Another thing I made a point of doing was focusing on the center of the mato, not just the mato and the yumi placement. Once I did that, my hit rate went up! I will be keeping that in mind again from now forward. I had not been doing that for a while, putting to much thought into aiming the Yumi. The next few weeks will tell how much I improve. I have to sign up for the Shinsa mid Feb. I am determined to make Yon-dan next year! It will not change any thing, except my pride in myself. Sometimes that is enough, to have a confidence boost.
I have a hope though as a sideline though. I want to visit the Kyudojo in Kamakura. I heard they will not let the general public in to shoot. I am hopeful as a Yon-dan and a Chan priest from their sect Rinzai ( I think they are ), the head person or managing person will let me shoot. That is my hope. however first I have to make Yon-dan, because at Yon-dan you are taken serious as a Kyudoka.

Shakuhachi wise, I have a new goal for next year. I had planed on another yearly pilgrimage to a Zen temple. However, I will change-up some this year, I was given a basic Komuso song to learn and an offer for instructions. Once I learn this I can go out “begging” with my acquaintance, the Komuso monk from Nara as an apprentice. I had heard it was a life changing experience for the acquaintance who offered me the lesson, to go out begging as a Komuso. So, that will be my pilgrimage and challenge this year, …er. Next Year. Go public playing and visit the Kyoto Zen temple.


LZ has a job doing hotel reviews. Sometimes they are very fancy places. She has been taking me along on the more interesting ones.


I have not been writing/saying much about them. Mostly for me , unless there is some place nearby of interest, I just chill in the hotel and practice Shakuhachi.
LZ has mentioned that I can write and get paid for an article from some publisher dealing with the foreign readers.
I do not consider myself a writer, even though I am doing this poor blog. However, I will start thinking along those lines, nothing to lose. So look for some small travel reviews upcoming on this blog. It is something we are doing as part of life in Japan and the Blasian experience.

Shaolin in Fuji’s Shadow

Shaolin in Fuji’s Shadow

Getting my Chinese Martial art footing in Japan has been a challenge, has been and still is really. However I am speaking more the space of a toe hold. So it seems rich as I write.

I have gotten a space that works comfortably for now at least with the new student that has started. It also gives me time before and after his class to have another class or two for the same slot I am renting. 
My Shaolin student has been out sick for a while, I do not expect him back until after the holiday to see if he can work with the new parameters. Really the only issue is he wanted it later on Sunday but that can not happen, so he seems serious, if he is, he will make the earlier time slot or the later one.
There is also a mother who has been wanting to start he son, I can offer him a 30 min slot same day earlier. If all works well, i can have two or three sessions on Sundays. That will be my regular Kung Fu teaching day. Or as I have to come to think of it as Shaolin Dharma training sessions.
It is also nice to have a space to call a center, rather than just a Park or Shrine, give the teaching more of a rooted feeling. Besides, “winter is coming” hard enough to get students, but being out in the rain and cold is not training that most want just starting out on this path.
It is also great for me to get my own regular practice time, before the class starts, I can get in my own hour or more of training. No bugs, cold, rain, snow, extreme heat, nice. I am not that young any more some comfort is good. Life, enjoying life is living in Balance. That is the Buddhist way, the middle way, in all things.


As it was my first real settled in class at the new place today, I made a portable Altar for my Late Shifu. I burned incense in his honor. It gave the space a sense of being a school, not just a rental room.


One other thing I came up with as use of the space is to offer a free meditation class, a 30 min beginners class for anyone. That would be another real method of spreading Shaolin Dharma. As part of my forming of the “Osaka Lohan Chan Temple” .
That would help some of Priest Vows on a couple of levels. 
Marital Arts/Chan
I am finding the path for me under Music/Chan is more difficult to understand, locate. I am finding more interest in the Komuso path, however it is hard to find concise info on the Path, what one does, other than play, is this a purely solo a Yogi type path or does it have a “show compassion” to other side as well? What is the real link between the sounds and the playing, just the breath, or the breath plus certain tones, to activate certain Chakras. Do the sutras have a certain, breath pattern , tones that translate to Komuso songs. Many question few answers. More research. Somewhat limited research at this time. I could just track down a teacher and do whatever to join, and find out just what is what with the Komuso of this day. Are they all about the show of some festival? Are there others who really care about their spiritual path. Anyway, as said my time with this research is limited. For now I still need to practice , not only my shakuhachi, but my Kyudo. The goal for next year is to pass Yon-dan. That is my focus, really to get Go-dan. Then, I can consider other items, other challenges…like A Komuso teacher and get some in-depth Shakuhachi spiritual training. 
Anyway there is is still also develop the Osaka Lohan Chan Temple, home of the Shaolin Dharma: Martial Arts and Meditation
We’ll, see what the tide brings next year…because
“man plans, God laughs”
Happy Festivus.

Kung fu in Japan…the path less travelled


I have been here a little over 3 yrs now. I started teaching Kung Fu and Chan meditation at a local community center at the mall, near home. It was not a big success but there was some mild interest. I knew it was going to be a challenge when going into this.
Some three yrs later I am still at it, still struggling, like with my Kyudo practice. Hmmm maybe that is going better. I have finally found a decent affordable location to hold class. Only problem is no students. I have a “ad” running in the “meetup group” website and was quite surprised at the number of people that joined. Mostly “gaijin” ok, I thought I have found a nech . I tried to make that work, asked questions about what they were seeking, any goals. Hmmm about 3 out of 12 responded to just basic questions, what are you looking for? Ok I focused on those, I travelled to a spot closer to them rather than have them come to me. That happened once. The next time people had stuff come up, or something, although stating how interested they were. So yeah, that fizzled out. 
There are still,people “joining” the on-line group, however, it seems they are just Lookey Lews…window shoppers. Sigh. Oh well.
There came out of now where one student, who came to me to learn, so far twice another American. He seems interested, he did travel to my area twice. However we’ll see with the next go round. One big issue I am running into, is a place to teach. Having class at the local shrine is ok, but with it getting dark earlier now that will be an issue, as the new student prefers a later in the day class early evening. I have found a place that is affordable, however they close early on the day I needed and on the other day they are not open at all…sigh. Road blocks…
The is a former Chan student who wants me to teach her son kung fu, I am invited to dinner sometime to discuss that . This maybe another serious encounter, since it is the son’s idea, still he is young and it maybe a combo, Kung Fu and English class, which is ok. She speaks English.
A friend of hers is/was interested also, but now says she is working way too much, so will have to put it off.
Yeah, it is an up hill battle here. Distance, + laziness + lack of motivation + language = very low student turn out. Still I will continue to reach out. Even of there is just one student it is worth to hold the mission for my part in spreading the Shaolin Dharma. Even the one student gives me enough motivation to practice and hang in there.
I forget the modern day illness of wanting convenience, and instant progress. Life is not always like that. Over coming that is part of the training path.

Viva Las Vegas

Viva Las Vegas

I was surprised how well it went getting to Vegas. The airport in Japan was easy and fast. Not much of a line or anything, immigration was smooth and simple. Plenty of time just to wait for loading. S.F. Also went fairly smooth. The airport had some high tech check in that was fairly easy. One still had to go through the customs part. 
A guy, the boarder guard, says, what are/ were you doing in Japan? “I live there” I say. Oh I did not know that, he says. Duh, I think, how / why would you? I give him the short run down on my Japan life. Oh, he says ok, have a nice day. Ok bam, done I am back in the states. I grab my bag and get oriented. I make my way to the next airline in domestic travel. Once there I look for food. 
Nothing really interesting or that I can eat. I spot a veggie burger, at one place of the three or four I see. $12.00 with fries!! dayammmm! I look around more nothing, I am sort of hungry and not knowing when I can eat again, I settle for the way over priced burger. I am not pleased. It was only so so, for real not worth the $12.00. I remember to be grateful for the meal and that I have money to purchase it. I eat and head for the gate after checking in. Again it is smooth. I am feeling blessed next stop Las Vegas. My Kung Fu brother is picking me up.
The flight there is smooth, I am surprised how few people there are at the airport. Later I find out it is because I came in via the international terminal. Once landed I head for the baggage claim. I am only slightly surprised to see slot machines right away. I grab my suitcase and seek out my “Shaolin brother”. I walk around and even go outside at one point. Hot hot hot! Still no see. We had not setup a meet point. Just playing it by the flow. I go on line and find a message from him saying where he is. After a bit of effort and another trip out into the heat, we hook up!
We head to his school, there I am greeted by the students and meet his daughter who I have not seen since she was just an infant. Now she has a two year old of her own. We settle in to the office and hang out. There is a class going on, being lead by his son. I have seen him grown up before but still it is “strange” remembering.
Later there is a couple of award ceremonies being held, I am invited to help with the event of awarding certificates and ranks. It was simple but sort of fun. 
Throughout the evening I am meeting his students. Him and I get to talk some about old times, friends, classmates and my ceremony the next day. I am to take the Buddhist precepts there in the temple and become ordained as a monk of the LinJi ( Rinzai) Chan, Lohan sect. 
Finally we head out for dinner. There Is a restaurant around the corner, sort of a corner. We are in a mall area in and called Chinatown. We go to a restaurant called “Kung Fu”. A Chinese/Thai place. There is a story behind the name, it is one of the last restaurants from the popular Kung Fu era. Several restaurants had that type of name.
The food was good, they had a vegetarian menu. I had been wanting some Thai food it was on my list of eat stops. I had green curry tofu, also spicy green beans with tofu. Yummm. Too busy eating to take pictures. We ate and talked, and finally took the rest home as it was too much! The Thai ice tea was also good. After another brief stop at the school we went to his home, where we crashed out shortly after. I slept easily, I did not get much sleep on the 10 hour flight, stuck in a middle seat, between two people who spread their arms out on both rests.
Currently I am writing this from another airplane seat. This time heading to Phila, The force is with me I got an aisle seat. But that is jumping ahead of the story…
The next morning we are up not too early but sort of. I was up first and did some stretching and meditation. I was not sure of the full plan, but I knew part of it was my ordination. We headed out for the school again. My “brother” had a class to teach. Again I meet some more students, a couple of them were quite pleased to meet me, they said, they had heard lots, they were coming to my ceremony that night. I was flattered and surprised.
The class started I went into the temple section of the school. There I hung out, meditated and practiced my shakuhachi. It was quite enjoyable peaceful. It was a good re-centering for me. The class was about 1.5 hr or so. Afterward we prepared the room for the evening ritual. I also got to play, well sort of more of an attempt to play a Tibetan horn. After all was in place and I had been given more instruction about the evening, we went out to lunch.
The choice for lunch was Mexican, another one on my list. Before hand I pulled rank on my brother, the Abbot and said. ” I am paying for lunch, you paid for dinner.” Oh yeah, he says! Says who?! Me, I come back with, I am your Sihing ( sempai). He laughs. The Mexican was good, it was a lot, a lot a lot. We could not finish it all. I have a Japanese size stomach now, for him it was just too much also. We both left some and pushed away from the table, with full bellies. Before going home we stopped at another shop, a herb, vitamin, health-food type place that also taught Tai-chi and yoga. The owner was a friend of his and a student. I felt right home in the shop, my kind of place, reminded me of our old school’s health-food store section. So after picking up a few small items went home. We needed a nap! Him more than me, still after I took a shower, I also took a nap!
5:00 came we returned to the school. An evening class had started, I meet more people. I received more instructions and it was suggested I sit in the temple to met the arriving priests. Little by little people came in, I was surprised as was the Abbot. I was told one had brought along a long-sleeved formal robe for me to wear. I changed and finally it was time for the ceremony.
I took my seat in front of the altar in the middle of the room. There was a lot of bowing on my part, myself alone and sometimes with others I had to repeat verses, and precepts, more bows, sometimes half bows, sometime full bows. It was a good thing my knees are better these days. Incense, water on the head, more bows, saying vows and then the transmission and it was over. I received my new Buddhist name and became an official Chan priest in the Lohan Order. Wow!
Everyone offered congrats, and the attending local priests and I took a group picture and it was done.
Some people left almost right away, still a number of them stayed. Some just went into the studio to practice. I felt I should give something in return to those who turned out for the ceremony and to those who helped with it. I told the Abbot and he recalled the group into the temple. To show my appreciation I gave my first public performance on the shakuhachi. I played the part of the Honkyoku song I am learning and improvised some to extend it. I was so nervous my notes were not smooth as they should be, however, I doubt if anyone noticed or could tell.
Afterward the Abbot gave a brief lesson on some Buddhist practices and chants from the handbook he is putting together. After I finished speaking with a few people, I joined him.
Then everything was done, we changed and went home. Still full from the afternoon lunch we did not feel like eating, we just chatted some and went to bed. At first I sleep right away, but later I awoke and could not go back to sleep for a couple of hours, that part sucked.
The next morning we went to breakfast at iHop. It had been a long time since I had been there. It was good. Then off to the airport.
I did something different and checked in outside at the curb. I was told my suitcase was too heavy it would cost me another $100.00 to take it. Ehhhhhhhhh! I was told I could take somethings out, there was a scale over on the side, then come back in line. I took a few things out and packed them in my carry on and my backpack. Ok, now my bag was ok and I saved $100 I was told. I am thinking, how weird. I just moved some things from one place to another, but it is still on the same plane with me. Oh well. I was off into the wild blue yonder, via JetBlue. Mata Las Vegas, see you another time…maybe.
I was off to Phila, for the next part of the adventure…


The UPSA tour


So far things are going smooth. I arrived at the airport three hours ahead of take off, thinking that I would be there with enough time not to rush. Things went so fast, no lines at customs, check in went quick and security was also fast. I made it through everything in one hour. I was shocked. I got to hang out for the next two hours, reading and on the internet. 

I received a email form my sister saying mother was being placed in DNR unit that evening. She is eating a little but very very little and gets agitated when someone tries to force her to eat more. Stubborn to the end. I am hopeful and have a feeling she is waiting for me to arrive. Even though she will not remember me. I had this sense that is what is happening. I recall, LZ’s father was on his death bed when we came to visit. We had been hanging out with sister and had everything done when we got the call from the hospital that we need to get there now! Once we did he was gone shortly afterward. I am thinking this will be the case here as well.
As I write this I am 3.5 hours from landing in S.F. From there I will fly to Vegas. I will visit the Lohan buddhist temple for a day before flying on to the east coast. I may have to cut short the first day plans there of seeing my kids and go on to see my mother, depending on the news over the next day or so. She is not sick, perse, just weak from not eating, I am sure she is just tired of this life and ready to move on to the next plane.

If I am able to visit with my kids before hand, I want to have a little family jam session. My grandson plays drums, my granddaughter play flute. I think one of my other grandson plays some guitar, there is a piano at the house which i will use, it will be a memorable experience for all of us to play together. My maternal grandfather was a musician, I never played with him, but I took my first music lessons with his violin. My father was a singer, as was my mum, but only in church. it is interesting that only my eldest son and now his kids carry on with that music line. His other two sons are graphic artist. I was a graphic designer before I retired. So the artist gene runs strong in my clan, whereas my other siblings, other than my youngest. Brother who was also a professional musician and graphic artist, none other artist are in the family.

Another little bit of out of the box from my clan is my eldest son, became a Muslim, and I a Zennie. The only ones in the family that I know of that stepped outside the traditional Christian line. I do have a cousin who was briefly a Seven day Adventist, but she returned to the Baptist fold after a while, however did remain a vegetarian. Everyone else I know of in my fam. is, was /are firm Baptist, there are , was a few ministers in there. Overall though I am the “black” sheep of the family, I have always been the one who was “out there”, the hippie, the rebel. I wear the label proudly. I think my grandkids will also step outside the box, at least a couple of them. It will be interesting to get inside their heads a bit now that they are older and stating to think for themselves.

Return to Shaolin

Shaolin Osaka

I did a concert last week ( another blog tale) , and I was surprised to come across an old Chan student of mine. She was as surprised to see me. It turns out she is the wife of a sax player I had just recently met, who was also in the show. She said she wanted to contact. Me before but could not. She was interested in a Kung Fu class for her son. Ok I said we can talk about it. She contacted me later and said she had a friend who also wanted to take Kung Fu lessons. So that gave me three student or two, yet to be seen. 
The week before I had started running an ad on “meetup” for meditation, Qi Gong, Tai Chi, I had about 15 or so people respond. I was surprised, quite surprised. I then figured I should also run an ad that said Shaolin Kung Fu, that also got about 8 responses. A couple of them were from the same people as the other session. I asked for some feedback on what the people wanted. I got very little response. That did not seem like a good omen. I figured I would just go ahead an setup a meeting place and do a test class to see who was serious. The end result was 5 people signed up, one cancelled, one was a no-show. However three people came out. For two of them it was a 1 hour plus, train ride. 
It turned out to be a good group. One guy from Spain, one from Denmark and one Japanese woman. All of them were nice folks and seemed to enjoy the session and were interested in really making a training group. I have now setup a weekly session with them. I am not really charging much, just enough if there is three to cover my transportation cost. Teaching the class is more for my spiritual sense of helping, spreading the Shaolin dharma, than making money. Money is good, but I need to feel like I am doing something with my Shaolin training and pledge to the uphold, spread Shaolin Chan Dharma. Helping to ease suffering, the lohan warrior thing.
I am pleased these students are ones seeking to balance their life and are not looking to be the next Bruce Lee or Jet Li. Two of the students already had their own meditation practice so fit right into the sitting chan part of the training. So it turns out this was a good idea to make the effort with this “meetup” thing. So in all I will have two location running classes, cool. Now to build a larger student base. 
If I can build a small following for classes on Sat and Weds, that would give me a real sense of purpose.
It is kind of nice that this is coming together just before my return to the states for a visit. Part of the trip will be to attend an annual memorial banquet for the grandmaster of the Tai Chi Mantis system. Also to attend a Tai Chi seminar and burn incense at the altar for my late Shifu. It will be good to see my school mates and nice that I can say yes I do have students in Japan, we do have a Shaolin Tai Chi Mantis branch there. My Shifu would be please I am carrying on the tradition. _/|\_

Back at it…

Back at it…

So back to the training path. With a different spirit, as I have said before. I went to the dojo last Sunday I was surprised to see Yamashita Sensei there, a pleasant surprise. He had been at the Nagoya event and before that it had been awhile since I got to train with him. He does not speak English, but still we communicate well. 
So after watching me shoot, he gave me some points to work on after I asked question. Part of my issue is dropping my left upon release. Others have given me tips on this as well. It still remains to be a “thing” for me to work on. In my head i understand, but my body does not cooperate. Putting power in my elbows to support my arm, not in my hands, or wrist. I still need to isolate the right muscles on my lats, and expand outward.
My question that was about my right tenouchi, however the answer extended over onto the arm dropping thing. As in Zen the is no duality and all is connected, so it is in Kyudo. Remember that old song about the thigh bones connected to the hips bones…yeah, sort of like that.
I was told I carry too much tense in my hands. My grip should be relaxed, both hands through uchiokoshi and Daisan. In Daisan there is, should be a little tension in my hand , but not a hard grip. Just enough with my forefingers, to stay together. The heel palm is squeezed together, same as the left tenouchi, the holding a bird’s egg thing. Both hands not just my left, but the right as well. No tension in my left, no tension in my right. Let the glove do most of the work. Adding a slight amount of tension going into Kai, but only slightly. The release should be equal with both thumb and finger on the right. The left fingers having no tension should close upon release not open as mine do. Forearms have no power. Power is only at the elbows, and lats. My vertical center line should be soft power, my horizontal line elbow to elbow has the power. The Yumi has the power, not my forearms and hands. As he explained it it made perfect sense, I got it! Understanding is one thing, doing is another. I am trying.
Today was another Kimono day practice. There was only four of us. Most other were already at the TaiKai in Kyoto watching or shooting today. I did a couple of rounds with the others, then we just shot on our own. I had a break through of sorts. I am pretty sure I sort out which mato to choose and the aim point. By which i mean the right eye vs left eye imaging thing. What seems to work best for me is to close the left just a little and focus on the right. Which makes sense since that is the eye next to the Ya. Doing that and also really focusing on relaxing my arm, and hands, expanding with my elbows made a difference in my shooting. On Sunday I only shot four arrows, spending most of my time on the Makiwara. Of those four I hit zero! 🙂 I did not really care.
Today I was up to 45.45% out of 22 shots. It has been a while since get that. Of course the test will be at least maintaining that and improving. Time and practice will tell.
I am off on Thursday, the day following this post to Kyoto, to watch the Nana Dan and Hanshidan Shinsa. From Yamashita Sensei talk to me about a soft core, but firm support, I will be watching with different eyes. The learning should never stop, the degree and intensity changes…yosh!

This n that, Life n April


I have been busy, with this and that. The bands and music have been keeping me active. I finished up a concert with “Bamboo n Thread Kyudo ensemble” at my favorite club, Snakfin, last week. That went well. We were part of a three or four group show. It was fun, chatting with some new people and hanging out a bit. There were several Sempai from the Kyudojo that came by to watch. Once again I was shocked to hear one of the performer say they heard me someplace else. Another shock was that LZ was speaking with someone who said they came just to hear me. That was really a shock. 
LZ enjoyed going. It was her first time going in the day and getting the full visual of the club and seaside. We had lunch there before the show and the owner gave everyone dessert during a break. It was very cozy.
The other group another Bamboo and String group, the one of my Shakuhachi Sensei. I call us Sennan city Bamboo n String Trio, we had our second rehearsal for our concert next week. We had it at the center we will be playing at. It also went well. I was informed by Sensei we may have another concert next month. Cool, it is good to play with a group that is organized.
This Sat the Blues band is playing at a Street festival. We have known about this for several months. However tonight two days before the show the “Doc” suggest that we do a session at the Overheat club tomorrow (Friday)to get in a little practice before the concert on Sat ! WTF!
Ok maybe it is me, but that seems thoughtless and rude. LZ thought so too, when I told her. One day notice to do a quasi rehearsal live, at a club, in front of people. Beside the fact of no consideration for the other band members plans. The drummer said he was busy, I did not even give an answer. I told him before about some last-minute playing request. Sigh.
The Snafkin Cafe owners gave me more info on the concert in June and who is available to play with me if I want. I am still not sure what i want to do. I had considered asking my friend the Shamisen player to join me on a song I was going to write and play Shakuhachi, but, I do not feel quite ready to play public on that yet. Still I may get an idea and just go with it. My main concern is playing in tune with other instruments. It is difficult on the Shakuhachi, more so at my level. I kind of have an idea that may work, it would be an interest experiment if I can pull it off.
Next week will be busy, I have the concert with Sensei, the next day I am off to Kyoto to watch the Shinsa for Hanshis. Then next day I got a call to do a modeling job. I do not know where yet, but, the pay is good for a half days work and sort of fun.
A had a visitor from the States the other day. A Kung Fu classmate who runs a Kung Fu school and Chan temple in Las Vegas. It was a treat to see him. We go back to the mid 70’s. I had seen him about 4 or 5 yrs ago in Vegas. It was great to catch up with news and talk Chan (Zen).
He is a Chinese Zen priest and Abbot. I had been speaking with one of his old teachers as of late, getting some new training methods to deepen my on practice. I got some inspirational guidance from him about furthering my practice and now have plans to do the precepts at his temple. I had been giving some thought recently on my practice. I feel comfortable being connected to his Shanga. My main Chan Sensei is in Taiwan, and a high level figure there, but I have not been “feeling” the changes that have been taking place with the Stateside organization. I want to connect with Shifu, I met him once, but his English is poorer than my Chinese.
the master and us
I wanted to go there to visit on the way to Japan, but that did not happen. When things do not happen I feel there is usually some reason beyond what I see. Still though perhaps I will one day. One never knows what the tide will bring.
I could go deep into Japanese Zen. However, I prefer the Chinese Chan over the Japanese Zen available here. I do though have a deep interest in the Komuso Zen, which is a branch of my own Lin Chi ( Rinzai ). The Taoist principle incorporated with the Chan fits more into my “spirit” and linking in my Kung Fu and Kyudo practice. Especially my Kung Fu/Tai Chi. I have been really feeling the need to renew that side of my life. It gives me more spiritual direction. The problem here in Japan is mostly my language skills, which I need to improve. Still even with what. Have I need to start pushing more. I am thinking of offering a free class a week to anyone interested. Sort of like a Buddhist bodhisattva output of compassion to the local area. A basic holistic health training aid of sorts. Qi Gong, Meditation, Tai Chi/Kung Fu. I sort of feel once I step on that path the Universe will provide what is needed to develop the “Shanga”. Anyway I feel the idea seed developing, I will see how Universe develops it. I seem to be being pointed in that direction. 
I have started making plans for a visit Stateside this fall. There will be a lot of stops, places to go people to see. Perhaps my aging mother and uncles for the last time, which was the start of the return visit plan.

弓道 – Where I am…

Backing off the Shinsa intensity was a good thing. It has not helped my shooting , but, that is ok. It is all ok. Not planning another Shinsa until Sept…or later. I am in this for the long run. Backing off has put some fun back into training. Yondan, Godan …it will happen when it is time, if it is supposed to happen. I have stepped up my Chan training again with the reduction of Shinsa intensity.
Oh yeah, I am still working on my Kyudo Art skills, just at a more relaxed pace. My ego can wait on the rank label. The bands have been also been keeping me busy, besides the Chan study and need to find a hmmmm…purposeful direction. However that is another story as they say, for another time.
I have been tracking my shots again, just because I can and it gives me some type of historical reference to look back on. I lost all my data from the beginning of the year up to the Shinsa time. 😦 stupid , troublesome iPad upgrade lost all my data. Oh well, non-attachment, impermanence…
I have been experimenting with different things, and questions on myself about how I am shooting. I believe one of my problems, besides, dropping my left arm, hands and shoulders too tense,, is my sight. It has been going downhill as of late. I see a double mato when aiming. I was told once upon a time that this common and to choose the dominant eye image. Maybe I am not choosing right or something… Or not.
I have changed my targeting point, more to the left, instead of doing this radical right elbow turn down thing. Now keeping the angle that I am told is correct, or closer to it, with moving my targeting on the yumi more to the left, my shots now, land on the center line more of the mato. Still however mostly too high or too low. Which is another thing to deal with. Any way, I am making some progress , slow but, oh well.
I went to the new scheduled kimono training session this week. That was cool. I learned the three man , one mato shot. I did not think I could do it, and do Risha, but nope I was wrong. I also was shown how to replace the kimono sleeve after shooting. Also, was given some refinements to doing the standing form. Steps, timing, etc. more good things to know for the next whenever.
I am heading to Kyoto first week of May, during Golden week to once again doing some viewing of the big advance Tai Kai and Shinsa. I was advised that the first day of shooting is a great one to watch, as the Hanshis compete then. However the timing with another plan is bad. Therefore the next best is to watch the Nanadan shinsa for those testing for Hanshi. Looks like I missed out on the last Nagoya Seminar for a while as it will be held in another country for the next few, couple or so years. Oh well, I have plenty of local help and Shinsas. The quality of my instruction is not really the issue right now, the issue is me. So until I fix that, it does not matter how good the instructor. The answer is not outside it is within. A Chan rule, which applies to life and Kyudo.