吹禅 – Birth of a Komuso


A Komuso is born…

 
It had been my plan for a while to do some type of shakuhachi pilgrimage every year. The anniversary of my formal shakuhachi lessons is in April /May, so I am late this year…if doing it on the date matters.
 
I set off fairly early on the pilgrimage. I was nervous, and dressed in a traditional Zen monk’s work clothing a Samue. Even then I was a bit self conscious, no one noticed or cared, they were dressed in western fashion, me the gaijin was dressed in traditional wear. It is an interesting world view.
 
The trip to Nara was simple, and fairly quick. I was traveling ahead of schedule so did not feel rushed at all. I arrived and looked around for a locker to stash my backpack. However even though early the coin lockers at the station were full. Oh well, thanks to my Sempai, I was shown another place that was setup for people to drop off luggage. He had arrived shortly after I did. I found a toilet room and changed into my kimono, after which I put on the borrowed Komuso gear from my Sempai. He had given some basic directions about what to do while wearing the “basket”, theTengai. Do not talk while basket is in place, remove it on the temple grounds, when speaking lifting the basket was ok or taking it off. I found that a bit hard to remember, lift and talk. I forgot many times and thought oops! I rather liked having the basket down, I was anonymous and hidden. A no one, people saw the clothes, and heard the sounds, but me as me not so much. Not the Black guy in Japanese gear. At least in my mind.
 
We started slow, I followed Sempai’s lead. With the Tengai in place I could listen to my playing and his. Not see the people watching, or at the least ignore them better. I was pleasantly surprised we were able to play in harmony. I have heard recording of other Komuso playing and many times the tones do not match. In the Komuso world it is not supposed to matter. My Sensei also told me that in traditional Japanese music it is not about being in tune, harmonically with other players. It is more so with Shakuhachi Komuso Playing. However my musical roots come from a different place. Disharmony of tones can be an accent but not the norm. So, I was told that it did not matter, but to a musician it did. So yeah, not having to fight a tonal discord made it easier to follow the lead of Semapi on his phrasing of the Cho Shi melody. 
 
We played first near the train station, then slowly walked toward the park, stopping every so often. People always took pictures. Being in the basket, I did not care. I was not me, who I was did not matter, what I was doing mattered and I could do it faceless. There is a Kyudo ceremony I have seen that the archer covers his face while shooting. This way it is not about the shooter but the shooting. Here it was not who was sharing the dharma, but the dharma. The Dharma in this case is the musical tones of Cho Shi.
 
Once we reached the park we had our first negative encounter. I was told negative encounters happen. Not always, but they are out there, where there is Yang there is Yin. This is the Tao/Do of life. Sh*t happens! they say in the street.
A security guard or sorts made us the target of his day’s power trip. He basically told us we could not play there on the street in front of the Park. Even though we were not IN the park, it was considered part of the park. At least in his view. Sempai was quite surprised having been doing this for a number of years. Rather than hassle with this “rent-a-cop” on a power trip, we moved on and crossed the street. There was fewer people traffic, but it could not be helped. We walked on.
 
We made several stops to play after that without any further incidents. Our next encounter came from a couple of tourist girls. They said we were Co-playing. Sempai corrected them that we were in fact real priests. He was from a local temple. They were surprised and wanted pictures taken with us and them. The first of several group pictures throughout the day.
 
I noticed most times we stop, there was always a small crowd gathered taking pictures, even as we walked some times, pictures were common. This day much much more than donations. I was not really concerned about the donations, for me it was more about being out there. Playing and doing the practice. Turning inward and doing the song under the “Tengai” got easier as the day went on. I could block out, the photo ops crowds and just play. A couple of times a few people would get really really close like they were trying to see inside. Perhaps Chinese tourist, they are not known here for being subtle. I rolled with it. When you stand in the wind, you have to expect something to get in your eye.
 
One of the more difficult parts was walking and playing. That became a real challenge. There was the timing of the song, the musician me was concerned about the rhythm of walking and the playing of the song, the martial artist me was concerned about the rhythm of the breath while walking and playing. Should everything match? Meanwhile my Tengai was slipping down over my head and covering my eyes, and other parts of my Kumoso wear needed constant adjustments from slipping. Add to that some knee discomfort and foot discomfort. As with sitting Zen there was more to it than meets the eye. It is not Just sitting, it is not just playing, one as to over come distractions, internal and external. One can not attach to the distractions, one just does the practice.
 
I noticed during our travels, the different reactions to us. Tourist took pictures, kids pointed and had kid reactions, some just ignored us. Some of the older Japanese surprised me with their reverence. They would stop and bow. That was to me touching, not seeing me, but the spirit I represented.
 
One older man spoke with Semapi upon hearing us play. He said the sounds returned him to his childhood during the war. There was a legless Shakuhachi player in his town. He wanted to learn from him. However the cripple said he ( the kid) did not want to go on this path (of suffering/sadness? ). Later he was able to take lessons, but had not played in many many years. He said the spirit that we conveyed was beyond and more important than not being Japanese. I found that comforting.
 
In most of the tales about Komuso, it is about them wandering around playing. However it seemed the playing was about and for their enlightenment or money. They did not really do Buddhist Priest type of things. When I see and have donated to other Priest on the street they give some type of blessing to the giver. I was told when receiving a donation as Komuso, one bows and keeps playing or restarts the Cho Shi song. After the day was over, Sempai said to me, the donations you received it would be good when you got home to put it in your sacred spot and say a pray or chant over it to honor/bless those who gave. For me that struck a good cord and really gave a purpose to the collections outside of self to buy lunch or the train ticket. It was also doing something as a priest since I do not belong to a temple here or do outside charity work, here in Japan. I have not seen much of other Komusos other than for special events, so this to me gives meaning to being a Zen Priest. Something to support my vows.
 
Overall it was an educational and enjoyable experience. I enjoyed having a spiritual outlet for playing and being a “Ronin” priest. I have decided to do more of this and make it a part of my Lohan Chan practice. Even if nothing happens via teaching Budo and sharing dharma that way, there is this musical dharma outlet, that is not just me playing for self enlightenment. The Modern street Komuso playing touches people, more so the elders, perhaps they need it more these days. Perhaps also praying over the donations adds positive energy to the world conditions. Maybe on some level eases someone’s suffering… even if just in their or my head having a Priest pray.
 
 
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Two forward, one back

Steps, forward and backward

 
We at Kishiwada Kyudojo had a Rei Kai the other day. I finally got the name right. Rei Kai not Day or Dae Kai, but Rei Kai. That is an improvement. The days or a couple of days before that I thought I was making good improvements with my Kyudo shooting. My hits ratio were improving. I had figured out what was needed, so I thought. I thought I would do ok at the Rei Kai, and I sort of did. I got one hit out of four every time I went up. I have hit 4/4 before a couple of times in the past and also 2/4. However that is in the past. That was Zen this is now. These days I have been sucky.
 
After my first round of shots, my head sensei comes over and asked, basically what the hell was that with the way I was hikiwaki as did another Sensei. I thought I had it figured out…wrong! The other Sensei told me what I was doing wrong. I was way off in my thinking. So I went back to the old way on the next round and was told that was better. Then the head Sensei told me my bringing the Yumi down and back to my hip sucks. Not in those words but it meant the same. So he showed me how to do it. i had been told before I was doing it wrong, I had too much curve in the travel but no one explained how I should do it. So the last few classes I have been doing it the new way and no one has complained…so far.
 
Ok, so Tues are Tai Hai days, so far I have been getting very little correction with that. The other day, I was corrected on my Rei which was too low, and my timing on entry steps. Other wise I seem to be ok with my Resha use. I feel pretty comfortable with that, no matter where my placement is in the Tachi grouping. We get random picks on in line placement, by having our arrows selected like drawing straws, but drawing Ya.
 
The other day another of my Sempai Sensei comes over to help me. He has done so in the past and although he does not speak English I get it he recently helped with my Tenochi and I finally got it, I can feel the difference. I got another adjustment the other day. He also watched my Hikiwaki and I think I got it. I was having issues with my right elbow placement. I had figured out if I push my elbow forward in Kai, my ya would travel straight and my arm would travel across the top when unfolding and not change my ya travel angle. However this was completely wrong. I was told my elbow should be back and in line with my back and not facing down as much as I was doing, my arm on release should travel not over the top but sideways…ehhhhh, ohhhh souka. Fist distance in between my hand and shoulder. In Zanshin my right thumb should point to the rear, my left thumb should point to the front. I have been watching the Kaicho, his does not do that in Zanshin. This sensei told me it is not correct, it should. Ok So I started trying this, my hits when down at first while I was working it, but after a few shots and sighting adjustments, it started to make sense.
 
These details are a bitch, but they make the difference. I keep working on them. I am of the mind set, by the time I pass Yon-dan I will be ready for Go-dan. I have found out there is one Shinsa at my dojo this year, I will attend in Sept…maybe if I can make some solid advancement by the registration date in Aug. if not then I will wait until next year. There are other chances, however, the dojo where the shinsas are most of this year, I do not like. The setup means one has to enter on the right foot and exit on the left. I have enough to deal with without having to switchup my foot work. I have done it, I took my San Dan under those conditions, but really dislike it.
 
At the Rei Kai the other day, I had to do really stuff in the event. I was told I would do something, but I had no idea what they were talking about. Part of it was being a score keeper. That was easy now that I have done it already at the last Tai Hai. It is just flicking switches. The other thing was taking the Ya from whoever turned it during the final shoot off, showing it to the judges and then to the shooters who were lined up waiting. I was walked through it by another of the Sensei, so was not so bad. The actual function was not so bad to remember but the word to use to the judges I do not remember. I think it was something to do with being the second group. Anyway, if I have to do it again I am sure I will get help.
 
So yeah, slowly I am making headway a couple of steps forward, and step back. Usually when I start thinking I got it, I don’t, but that is ok. A Zen master said once mistakes are opportunities to learn. 
 
So onward, little by little. Like the turtle, not how fast to reach the finish but reaching it is the goal. We were told in my old Chan class about turtle breathing. Slow and steady, this helps give them long life. A dog breathes fast and has a short life, turtle breath slow and have long life. So I think of my Kyudo training as turtle breathing, slow, and deep.
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Pilgramage – Kamakura

Engaku-ji

 

 
I had been looking forward to this for a while . Even though my original hope was to be able to shoot there were dashed. It still had the making of an interesting trip. The agenda was, watch Kyudo, visit the temple, go to another temple to see the Great Buddha.
 
We catch a late bus out of Osaka. It was some 9-10 hrs ride. The bus trip was smooth, another still I /we were unable to sleep much. Me less than LZ , much less. The seats were uncomfortable, space was cramped. I watch a movie on my Ipad, “Logan”, Xcellent flick. Then tried to sleep.
 
Finally we arrived in Yokohama and had to wait for something or another, plus grab some breakfast. Finally we got the train we wanted, and off we went. Dropped off our bags in a coin locker and went to the fist temple. Engakuji a old Zen temple, were the Kyudojo was. We had no idea if the dojo was going to be open or when. I was prepared for that. Even if it was closed I could still look at some of the facility somewhat. When we arrived at the gate, which was a surprise to be right almost next to the train stop, they were just opening. We enquired about the dojo. We were pointed to it and told , if the path was unblocked we could go into the grounds. 
 
We made our way over to the area which was just a few steps from the entrance. Luck was with us and the path was un-blocked. There was a grounds person just starting to open it. We asked. Few question and were told the would be practice at 10:00a.m. Currently it was 9:30 or so. We said our thanks and our we’ll be back words. We headed out into the main temple grounds.
 
The grounds were huge, clean. It was a perfect time to visit. The temps were comfortable, it was not crowded, and there were some Sakuras in bloom. They were not in full glory yet but enough to give the sight a nice charm. We walked around checking out misc.buildings. For me interesting. LZ is usually not so into the old temple stuff but she seemed to find these grounds interesting. It was nice pleasant not having the crowds. As we were leaving more people started to show up. It was now 10:00 a.m. So we headed back to the Kyudojo.
 
As we arrived the shooter were just getting warmed up. A few of the older guys were doing some stretching. Another couple or so were getting their equipment together. I watched from outside as we were supposed to do. Aa couple of guys started on the makiwara. I noticed behind them were one or two people doing meditation or praying.
I think meditation, this is a Zen based Kydojo. I walked back and forth to view what I could. Finally I could take no more and asked one the shooters. “Are there different ranks here now? What is the average? Something close to that. I was told there are no ranks, they only do it for personal development. Then I remembered they are not part of the Federation. I was told we could have a seat off in the side yard. We were was ok, to move the barrier and go in the other area. We enter and Got a better view of the shooting area of the dojo.
 
More people started to arrive. Some noticed we were inside the yard and also moved the barrier and came it. I watched for a while, took more pictures from this angle and then we left. I found out later that some of my dojomates, upper ranks had no idea there was a Kyudojo in Kamakura. I was kind of surprised, but since they are not part of the Renmei they go unnoticed by the group.
 
The Great Buddha
 
Our next stop was the Great Buddha. It was only a short trip to the Temple of the Great Buddha. It was now around 11:00 am, the crowds where out. The “fun” quality of the trip diminished with the size of the crowd. Side stepping, dodging, we made our way to the Buddha. My only reason was just for historic value. It was big, I got a few good shots and picked up a few small omeyage. Then we headed back. A few stops were made at a couple of local shops. We had planned on visiting one other temple but changed or minds. Instead opted to go right to lunch. The Thai place LZ had picked was closed. However there was another within walking distance. It was run by real Thais, it was right across from the beach. I was surprised there was such a nice beach there. LZ said it is a famous beach , used as a back drop for many many Movies, TV, etc . The food was ok, so far I have yet to find any Thai as good as the place I was a regular at in Ca.
 
The next stop was our hotel. There we rested and had a great dinner. The room was small but comfortable. I say small because it was picked as a placed for LZ to do a report on. So we could basically write off our trip for the most part. There was a private jacuzzi time. The Jacuzzi over looked the water, it was only so so, to me because the weather was still chilly, so not really enjoyable. However the dinner as I said was good.
 
Yokosuka
 
The next day we visited, long term friends of ours from NorCal. Another mixed couple like us. The husband currently works for the Naval base there at Yokosuka. He took us to a spot that over looked the placed where Admiral Perry first came and threaten the Japanese.
Trade or die! We next went to the Military base and technically went back on American soil, by foot! We had a bit of an issue getting on base, we needed passes, and LZ did not bring a photo ID. It took a while but we were able to get a pass for the day. On base we got a tour, and did some shopping, of food stuff not easy to get in Japan. A gold mine score.
Next to their house for wine and cheese, chatting and laughs. I was given an interview for the website and facebook site, “Black Toyko” .
 
After all that we hustled off to the train/bus for the long trip home. Overall to was fun. It was good to hang out with our friends and kick it like we did in Cal.
It was a long trip but worthwhile in my mind. Even though could not shoot at the Kyudojo, it was still worthwhile to visit the temple and grounds. It was nicer we thought than Kyoto. The Great Buddha was “Meh” but ok to see once. I picked up a small gold plated Buddha statue for my home shrine.
more photos here –> X

World Chan Conference

World Chan conference.

 
I have been doing some study on-line with a teacher from the Chan linage of Sheng Yen. Beishi Guohan is the head teacher and founder in the Cosmos Chan Community. A few months ago Guohan Shifu mentioned that he was coming to Kyoto to see some Zen temples. I offered to help him get to Kyoto. This week he arrived, I was contacted and asked if he could met any Zen Masters or monks. I said, I only know of a couple and only one in my area. I was referring to Yoh Aoki. Even though I have some issues with him as a Zen Master, he still has the credentials, even if not the heart. In my opinion.
 
Moving on…
 
Although pretty much last minute, the arrangements were made. Guohan Shifu, his wife, and myself would go over to the Marina and meet with Aoki “Shacho” (company president). 
 
I was somewhat fretful the night before, I am not big on meeting new people. What will we talk about? Ok well Chan, but meeting with a master, am I suppose to ask some deep questions or something? Slowly slowly slowly I let it go, and just did what I needed to do, rolled with it.
 
I arrived at the agreed place but the Shifu was not there. He had arrived very early, him and his wife were out and about, looking at stuff. I messaged them and we hooked up. It was comfortable meeting him. He is sort of quiet, so I felt somewhat pressed to speak. I asked the general stuff and the three of us chatted comfortably. I really liked his wife, she reminded me of my Kung Fu auntie in Oakland.
When she found out I could speak some Chinese she helped me with a few things. At the end of the day she gave me a Jade, necklace for LZ.
 
One of the things I wanted to ask The shifu, well really the only thing. “What is the meaning of life? “
I have seen this question posted by a Buddhist Meetup group. I had seen this posted in another form by a Muslim, I recall this from my Christian days. Christians say “to bring glory to God”, Muslim: “To know God” ( something like that), my teacher’s answer was,” to know truth”. To me this could all be the same thing. It was not the mind blowing answer, I hoping for, but not a surprising answer. Hmmm perhaps in its simplisty.
 
We made our way over to the Aoki boat yard, where we were greeted and offered tea. There we chat a little before heading out to lunch. It was decided that we would go to the Indian Restaurant we go to was nearby and we could get veggie foods for Shifu and myself. Once there my friend the manager, made both myself and Shifu some thing special. It is good to have a connection.
 
So the world Chan conference began. China, Japan and American representatives 🙂 We had a nice chat about this and that, reasons for starting Chan, temples, masters, etc. At one point Aoki Shacho had to leave there were things to do back at the Boat yard. I found out later there was an interview. Anyway it was fine. I sat with the Shifu and his wife a while longer. Then we left.
 
We walked to the train station and I rode with them to the airport, where they made the connection to return to Kyoto where they were staying. I was invited to come visit them in Taipei. I liked them both. They were both approachable and down to earth. I will be continuing to study with Shifu Gouhan. Perhaps I have found my true Chan teacher…when the student is ready kind of thing. Some fate involved with him coming to Japan, otherwise he would have just been a voice on a internet conference. Too bad he is not a Kung Fu master as well, that would be off the hook…cool!
 
As for going to Taiwan, that could be a very cool thing and affordable for at least one visit. I can visit both my Chan shifus, I can stay at one of the temples for sure and people from the Heart Chan group will take me/us around as family. Also I have I believe a Kung Fu Uncle there who I could visit maybe train a bit with him. I am pretty sure Ling Sisuk sometimes goes to Taiwan for training, he could get me a hookup. I was told there are more and more vegetarians there in Tawain now so a lot of places to eat. I could get a lot of bang for a few days of low spending. Hmmm something to think about. LZ is up for a visit. I would need at least 4 days. One day for Kung Fu training , two days for the Chan temples, sight seeing one day, hmmmm. Ok maybe a week. Maybe we could go together and I can stay a couple of days extra for training. Something to think about anyway.
 
Anyway as far as Chan study, it is good to have a teacher again, someone I respect, I can grow now, I told my Abbott I would continue to train. My Heart Chan Shifu, Wujue Miaotian from Tawain does not speak English and I am not really in touch with the Ca group, it is hard to connect via on-line teachings, with the time factor. I am still connected but my path is different, I am not feeling somethings about that path. The group of Hsu Yun, my teacher there passed away. The group seems to have stalled, I see no future for me with them further. It is as Gouhan Shifu would say, a Karmic connection that has connected me with his group. (PS: Anyone interested in dharma classes free on-line drop me a note). I find it interesting that part of the training that I wanted to do in Japan was Zen, but my training is coming still from the Chinese path, even being in Japan.

Waiting

The wait zone…

 
I am deep into to that right now. Ever think about how much time we spend waiting on stuff, things, people. It is neither god or bad, it is just what it is, nothing. Like the taste of tofu, we add flavor. On its own, it is pretty bland, like what this post will be. Unlike the last post which for some reason got a large amounts of hits. Perhaps from the Tumbler readers, I have a lot from there, WordPress , not so much. Why? Well in the scope of life it does not matter, like this post…more so, since this is a free trip…for everyone.
I digress
 
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Waiting…I am deep in the waiting zone. As one who meditates daily, does Tai Chi, drinks green tea, hmm ok not so much the green tea part, but slowly down, calming the mind and spirit is part of my everyday training. I live there, it is not someplace I go to for a break. So one would think I would be more at peace with waiting, it is after all like doing sitting Zen. Being still, yet actively waiting…
 
I am in the waiting zone. There are things I notice as I apply Chan mind to behaviors. Sameness like doing zazen and being in the wait zone. The items are small, trivial, they will only be a scratch to an itch, yet desired. I know this and am not attached to item or out-come, still there is desire. Which makes me think about the Four Truth in Buddhism, suffering. More in this care the awareness of the act or case of a possible suffering. Is that a form of enlightenment? The awareness of self foolishness, illusion, attachment. It is not using un-attached mind because I am thinking and registering that I am doing it, and not just doing it. So not in the non-abiding mind state.
 
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My bass has been in the Shop for 10 days, I was told 10 days, then LZ says “about” 10 days he said…waiting…my ya have been sent to the Ya shop’s shop, for 30 days…waiting, my Abbot is going to find out what is the hangup with my Priesthood certificate and get it sent to me…waiting,..new Shakuhachi in the spring…waiting
 
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Life is waiting, we wait to be born, then we wait to die…Zazen should be easier.
 
 

Do without doing


Do without doing…

 
The difference is noticeable, to me. Deeper seeking internally than externally, while keeping the external alive. I am speaking on shooting with the shinsa over my head, and the change since not choosing the shinsha this time. The sense of urgency is gone. I can just shoot with more internal conscience . Like going from Mato to Makiwara shooting.
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My latest tips from Yamashita sensei, have been worked into my programing. A big one I think is, I was holding my right arm too high. Lower then stretch the triceps from the elbows. Two directions, yin yang.
 
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Another sensei, had me readjust my tenouchi. I have some callous now on my hands from doing the park work for the city. On my left palm it is where the Yumi rests. It was becoming very painful the other day while I was shooting. My grip was way wrong! Once the Sensei showed me the right way, hand stopped hurting. This lesson will stick because of the pain. Funny how we learn that way. Pain can be looked at as a good thing, it is our friend…at times. Perspective is a big deal.
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Non-abiding awareness. This has been a word one of my Chan teachers uses a lot. It is how we should deal with things, life, tasks. Attention to detail, breath, victories, failures. When shooting, be the details, the moment, have no concern for the outcome, non-abiding awareness ( detachment) to the joy of success, hitting or pain of lost. Do what you do, without being attached to it, or the outcome. “Do without Doing.”
Sort of like “mushin”. I have been relating non-abiding awareness, more to Kyudo these days. I also notice my “Kyudo” things popping into regular Life. Walking straighter, is a big one, use of the eyes is another. Plus Cross stuff from Tai Chi to Kyudo, Kyudo to Tai Chi. I think that means I am understanding it more.
Understanding better the cycle of support, the interdependence of my arts; sitting chan, Kung Fu, Kyudo, Shakuhachi, Yoga…living and life…
…or,
I have grown more delusional …

Hatsu-kai 2017

 

 
Spring first shooting. I enjoy this group this is my third, I believe attendance. It was cold ! I was thankful we have an inside Dojo. Even then it was still cold! 😦
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Funny how some things work out for the best. If I had joined the nearby Dojo, I would have frozen “my grapes”. At the time I was heart broken, but now, so glad. There is a lesson there, trust the Universe! My mother would have said, all things work out for those who trust the Lord.
 
I have been putting my practice time in regularly, not much improvement I can see. Whatever, it no longer matter. I just do my thing, and work on whatever to improve my center of shooting. I will no longer concern myself with the next Shinsa. I will be ready when I am ready. After all, it affects no one but me, and will change nothing for my life. I spoke with a guy at the Silver center. He is a san-dan in Judo and Kendo. He said Yon-dan is a hardest one to pass there also. So I guess it is the same in all the Japanese Arts. They are hard on San-dan – Yon-San.
 
So anyway, my Tai-hai is getting better at least. I get none to little corrections on/at the weekly practice sessions. That is good. So when I am finally able to make some consistent hits, I will be ready for the Shinsa. The next one is coming up in March, however, looking at my current scores, I will pass on going again, no use wasting my money.
 
So yeah the Hatsu-kai. It was mostLy just our dojo, and there was another group of high schoolers I believe, who also attended. It was cold, but we made do.
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I did not do well, as was expected. I got one hit out of 8 shoots. I was quite surprised when I got a prize for being in 40th something place. 🙂 I took a lot of pictures as usual. Along with some of my other classmates this time.
 
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Anyway my placement did not matter, it was fun. I enjoy my dojo mates, that is really more important about these things. The sense of fellowship. That is the one thing I miss the most about being away from my Kung Fu family and Shifu. We had monthly Friday night closed door sessions with Shifu and sometimes and Uncle it really gave us a sense of fellowship, family. That beside the sharing of info, and training together bonded us.
 
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This month was the anniversary of my Kung Fu Shifu passing. It is always sad to think of the lost of him, yet up-lifting to know how blessed I was to have the memories of that time. The same goes for the lost of Nagomi Sensei with Kyudo. I really had very little time with him , but in my mind and heart it was very meaningful. I would really really like to pass my Yon-dan Shinsa at my original school, I believe that would please him…but, in the big picture it matters not at all. I am sure his spirit would be pleased where-ever, whenever it happens, the important thing is to Ganbraru and not quit! Knocked down seven, stand eight!
 
If interested you can view my pictures from the HatsuKai here…click
 

Kuietly Kyudo Krusing


Wow, it has been over a month, since a post. 

Yeah, well, life happens and you just have to roll with it. Sorry my 4 readers. 

Speaking of which, I was surprised to found out I have more followers from Tumbler to here, than on WordPress to here. Strange, different type there no doubt, hmmm , what type are there, am I weird or normal weird, or un-weird to whom. 

No matter I digress….
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Yeah, it has been a while since posted. A fair amount of stuff went on, but who is really interested…right. It will not change the election results. That is a real bummer with Trump as Pres. Thank God I am not living in the states! Still there will be repercussions. Even for us permanent resident card holders.
There are those who tune in for the Kyudo Tales, encounters with joy and sorrow. That is when I get the most hits. Hmmmm maybe from the G+ link. Oh well, whatever…just tripping.
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So yeah Kyudo…
Even though there has not been much verbiage, it is still on, like donkey kong.
 
I went back to the States in Oct.. I do not believe have said that, or posted. Yeah, it was a surprise to me also, getting to go again so soon. It was short, a mostly directly to deal with my Mum’s left over affairs trip. I did get to quietly see a few people. One of which was my Kyudo Federation Sensei in Ca. I went to a class. We chatted some and I was given the once over on my kyudo development. Over all I got a clean bill of health and a couple of tips. It was all inside Makiwara dojo stuff, but my Resha tai hai was good. So it was something positive. 
That was the extent of my Kyudo for that trip.
Meanwhile back home in Osaka, a Tai Kai was coming shortly after my return. I had a few weeks of practice time before. Not really that I expected to do good, it was a just simply, practice, sometime I needed.
The Tuesday full kimono training session are interesting. After each round of shooters those that watch, critiqued , then switched. We blind pick Ya, from a bundle to choose, who goes where in the line up for shooting.
All done very seriously, and taken so, with a open heart within the spirit of training, but still fun.
 
I usually do not get a lot of chances at shooting at these things, it is mostly TaiHai stuff and other Sharies. I shoot a little for me, afterwards. I had not taken any notice of any improvement, so had not been thinking about it, too much, next Shinsha is March. However NOW is the time to think on this, March is coming soon!
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Tai Kai Day. It is chilly. I am pleased I got my Haori Jacket returned from the embroiders. I had a mon installed. My late Father in Law’s Haori has been missing since we arrived here. It was put someplace “safe” until we were settled, which is unremembered by my Mother-in-Law, and believed left at an old apt that is difficult to access from Family. Anyway, I purchased a one, it is perfect for those chilly times when not shooting, and still want to main the one’s Samurai coolness look.
 
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Ok, yeah the Tai Kai. Fairly good turnout. Several dojos from the area. I did most of the photography as my part of the hosting dojo team. It was a long , but fun day. My shooting was nothing to write home about, or in this case, post about, but I have done worse. Perhaps I have hit my bottom point. I got 4 hits out of 12. My Sempai who has been doing Yon-dan Shinsha with me, says I beat him by two.
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I was feeling like some progress was being made. I paid more attention to my scores over the next few practice sessions.
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My shooting is not impressive, however looking at my records from the last few months. There is a small overall rise in my scoring. Before general average was about 33%. Now I am at about 40+%.
If I can get up to 55% by March. I will have a good shot at Yon-Dan.
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Yon-Dan is the most hardest, I keep hearing…the changing point. People take you seriously as I Kyudo player when you reach Yondan.

On other Kyudo news, I had been using a straw hay bale in my Yard as a Kyudo Makiwara since I got setup here in This part of town. I was driven for those ranks, so I knew I had to practice even when not getting to the dojo. I had been struggling with the setup. mostly keeping the ya from going into the wall and through the hay bale. it mostly worked.
LZ was clearing out some stuff on Yahoo auction, I gathered something as well. I had some extra Kyudo items, plus an old Namisun I was using. I sold everything as a started kit and made enough to purchase a Makiwara, real pro-made one. Whooo hoo.

 

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Monk’n around Nara


 
Ever since I started studying Shakuhachi and found out there was a Zen sect that was developed around it, and it was a off shoot of my own Lin Chi sect, I have had an interest in knowing more about the practice, the philosophy, history, etc.
(My English lit teacher would not have like that sentence too long) 
I was introduced to a real life Komuso monk via another on-line acquaintance. The internet has real value on bringing stranger together. We had a few messages via on-line and finally I got the chance to meet in person in Nara.
 
I had a day scheduled for the trip, there was supposed to be two other meeting up with us,but it turned out to be only one other a student of hIs and she was late. It was a good day to visit Nara, the weather was good, for our 6 mile walk around the hills and by-ways of the town.
 
I got to listen to listen to some things about, my new acquaintance and Zen Brother lets call hIm “J-monk” practice. He is pretty much the local face of Kumoso around Nara. Playing a begging around the town on a regular bases. This is his connection to the community, this is his bring his Zen practice to the people. It is a live practice, not just sitting in the mountains. I found that most interesting. Another interesting I found is that he is on the bad side of his Sensei, perhaps for being too “out there” too much in touch with the community. Not in a bad way, but a good way. To the point he gets praised and his sensei get jealous. That says a lot about the weakness of his Sensei’s practice. It hits home with me being someone I thought was my friend, who is also considered a “Zen” master also has a big weakness as a person in his practice. Labels are just words, when one does not have the heart fill the reality of the meanings. It shows, in another sense, people are just people and no man “walks on water”.
 
It would also seem from what I was hearing is that a large amount of the Komuso only are active for public displays. Ceremonies, parades, that sort of thing. Also it seems , the already small number of monks is in decline, because the senior monks are not really active in taking new students.
This is just generally speaking from what I heard, and not to be taken as gospel.
 
The Komuso also from what I gathered do other Renzai type training as well, chanting, zazen, the like, but the main focus is the Shakuhachi. J-monk had said he has found that it more about the breathing that gives one the meditative state than the music it self. Which goes along with my thoughts, and research from other paths and studies. Including input from another Zen teacher of mine on doing Zazen, using breathing techniques before Zazen to put one in the correct state to be respective.
 
So we walked around Nara, took in some sights of old temples and shrine. Even walked a bit in the woods off the main trails. All the while J-Monk’s student collected Pokimon-Go monsters around town.
 
We hd a great veggie lunch at a place that is off times too crowded to get service at times. We just happen to hit it right.
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It was a good and interesting day around Nara. I took my serious camera along, really I lugged it around but only used my phone camera. So I had a sore back and knee afterwards for nothing. Oh well, it was a good thought, but not a day for taking serious photos. More of a smartphone shot kind of day.
 
I also had my Shakuhachi with me, but did not play or even take it out. The spirit did not hit me. A good point would have been at the Golden Buddha where J-Monk, burned incense and put some smoke over his Shakuhachi, a blessing, cleansing sort of thing. I did not have incense so I miss that unexpected moment. But I did photo catch in in the process.
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He also blew a few notes at a couple of different spots. Being used to playing in public and on his home turf made him fully at ease. Me and his student on the other hand, were quite self-conscience about drawing attention. I did mention to her she should play something. Beside being shy she said, “I only know two notes”. I said it is not how many noted you know, it is how you play them that matters. My Sensei still after over 35 yrs of playing says he many time just plays one note. Seeking the purity of sound. Sort of like doing a shot in Kyudo, the masters are not seeking just to hit, but the purity of the shot. She said she felt better hearing about my Sensei, on her own practice of just the couple of notes.
 
While at another place she reminded J-Monk and I of our practice when we three were debating who was going to pay for lunch, we all wanted to cover the tab. She says, Are jot you guys as Priests suppose to gratefully accept the heart felt gifts from someone making an offering… We could only smile.
 
I will be returning, for part two of the Monk’n around Nara Komuso experience.

The Yumi string twangs


The Yumi string twangs…

 
It has been a while since I wrote about my kyudo trials and tribulations. It has been a slow and many times frustrating passage. I am still a long way from where I want to be, however, even I see progress. I am throughly enjoying the Tues kimono sessions. I do not get to shoot a lot, but I do get to learn a lot about Tai Hai, and other “sets” especially doing Rensha. Others also get to learn having to work with me doing Rensha, they also have to make certain adjustments and watch their timing when I am Omai. So it is a win/win training.
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I am still not hitting but, I am making headway with my form, and the misc connections. I keep adding stuff I am given, and slowly slowly slowly it is coming together. I am no longer getting corrections on my draw and right hand tenouchi. Yamashita Sensei told me last night my left tenouchi is improving and gave me some more tips. I have notice my bow rotation is better when maintain a certain amount of pressure and push. Which in turn changes where my Ya hits. It is a slow learning process.
 
I went into the dojo yesterday night, a Sat. Thinking it would be slow. I was very surprised to find out the opposite. One sempai is testing for Rensei soon, so several Renshi where there going through the tai hai with him. I had planned on a quiet evening of solo practice. I was pretty much forced into drilling with the group. It was of course worth it, but not what I had planned, but I rolled with it. I suppose that would be embracing emptiness, in Chan Buddhist thought, embracing the change, adapting, being water.
 
 
One thing I am getting a regular check on now for correction from another Sensei is, after Zanshin, when returning to ready position, my Yumi travel is not correct. Too much angle, curve in travel and not a straight line. This takes real concentrated effort on my part to get it right. So many small things in Kyudo that add up to the perfection of a good shot. I have been reminded on several occasions, Yon-dan is difficult. Everyone chuckles as I keep putting off the next Shinsa. However, I do not want to rely on luck and spirit. I want skill, luck and spirit 🙂