Friday Fu w/Shifu…April

29 04 2008

Hard to believe another month has passed. I arrived early to the school since I was closer to Campbell and not working. After speaking with Shifu and giving him a CD of the school logo for new shirts. I set about warming up.

Soon I was joined by D1 . We chatted about what I was working on. I told him mostly review these days. I have a lot of stuff to do. I did want to learn the two man Bun Bo Mantis set. My problem was, Shifu knew and taught the 7 -Star Praying Mantis version. Shisuk’s school did the Tai Chi Mantis version. The 7-Star version looks more complete we agreed. It is more realistic in the moves, where as the Tai Mantis version looks like somethings is missing. My problem with learning the 7 Star version is I would need to learn both sides. At least re-learn one side and totally new on the other. I had stopped doing the 7 star version. However with the Tai Mantis Version I only needed to learn one side. Hmm Something I need to speak with Shifu about, in my questions about preparations. There is another set I want to learn from Shifu is his two man Tai Chi Drill. Shifu does not have a lot interest in Tai Chi on it’s own. He does I hear, think this Two Man Drill is very good. Very complex I hear. This will be a challenge to learn both sides, plus catch up with everything in 3 years.

D1 asked if I was learning two handed sword from Shifu. I said no, I have plenty of stuff I need to practice and relearn I do not need yet another set to practice. I do want to go over The Mantis Long Staff with you! Ok , He says, let’s go it. For he next 30- 45 min we reviewed the Set. After a bit we were join by D2 who also practiced with us reviewing the set. I practiced until I was pretty sure I had it back. I still need to practice to feel more comfortable with it. But I got the moves again. I also made a short video of it. That way I will have a backup in Japan.

After a while I went inside. Shifu was speaking and demoing about cutting inside of a punch, and following up with several options. One of the differences with Shifu and Shisuk. Shifu is all about combat, how things work and following through. Shisuk is more technical and academic in his approach. They do not always agree on things in the system, practice, training, application. Shisuk usually submits to Shifu his senior. They do have some heated conversations at times. More so when they have both been drinking.

Friday ended with some talk on Jet Lee and Jackie Chan’s new movie. Entertaining , was the final remark by someone who saw it. Cool I’m there!


20 04 2008

The Walnut Creek, Tai Mantis School had a BBQ this Sat.

My students and I were invited. As usual unless it is a big event. I am the only one that shows up to these things.

There were not that many people there when I showed up. Even Shisuk ad not arrived yet and I was 1 hour later. No matter. I can hang out…

I went through the school, took some pictures said hello to all. I chatted with the senior student outside for a while it had been awhile since I had seen or spoke to him. I’m sure I will be hearing a lot more from him with the summer events coming.

There was no Chinese food today at the BBQ, just BBQ. I do not know how true but I hear the meat of the day was squirrel. The meat I saw them cutting up into small strips looked different..

I was having veggie burritos & pasta no matter what they ate. We had several nice wines to chose from. Finally Shisuk arrives so we can eat.

As we are into our plates more people show up. The interesting thing about Shisuk’s school is that there are a lot of couples with there kids.

Shisook is very much the parent with all of them… the Shifu. He gives advice, on health, study, business, relationships, not just kung fu. He students are very loyal. He is a firm teacher, but will do anything he can for his students. He truly helps them develop in character not just physically. When questioning him on it he will say, generally, this is how my Shifu taught me.

One of the late comers is a friend of mine from Vietnam. She is one of my favorite people there. For no other reason that we click and are about the same age. She is a vegetarian also, so at the banquet through the years we, her, Shifu’s wife, myself & wife, and another couple share the same table. This past banquet I find out she is a Zen student.

So when she comes today I figure, Oh, great I can hear some of her system. She pulls up a chair at a table with myself and Shisuk. Her and I get to chatting, this is really the first I had gotten to speak with her about her Zen practice. When I found out at the banquet when were just about leaving. This day I find out she holds sessions at her house, and goes to various other meditation centers around the Bay are as well. She is a student of Zen Master Tich Nhat Hanh, recieved her Dharma Name via him. She goes to all his retreats and such and hold her own session around town. She also is the Vietnamese translater for his books for publishing in English. Wow I had no idea, she was up there. We also spoke on Ophra’s new project with he author of “new Earth” I think it is called. She did not know of my studies, other than the motion side of Shaolin. I told her some of Shaolin Chan and she asked for the web address. It was a brief, but interesting talk, she needed to go pickup her husband. That was a good point for me also, there was a new flurry of activity, so I said my goodbyes as well and headed home.

The Zen Crew’s Excellent L.A. Zenventure

16 04 2008

It is good not to have expectation about things, well, not too high expectations, especially things you can not control. Also a good perspective is a good thing to have. I say, the keys to life are timing, perspective and who you know any one of them gives the holder a happy life. Go ahead, match it to anything…zen

The adventure began on Sat. morning. It was a good example of life, and the flow of things, yin within yang, interdependence all that. I started my part of the day going to the Emeryville marine Flea market. I was also ready somewhat disappointed that a guy I had been talking to about an anchor for months could not find room for it in his truck. I let it go and moved on, to find another.

I was hoping to find one at the flea market today along with a part I needed for my Mainsheet controls on the boat. I did not check the starting time of the event and arrived almost two hours early DOH! Starting at 10 am, I never seen that before. I found this out after hanging out and seeing little signs of a sale. So I asked. While in the process of hanging out, watching folks setup. A guy comes up just off to my rear side vision. He has a wheelbarrow full of anchors. I go over to check things out. I spot the very Anchor I wanted from the other guy, (who was setup just across from where we were standing) perfect. I ask, how much?, he says make me an offer I have no idea what it is worth… Hmm I think, I want a good price, I also need to be fair. I offer 15.00 below what the other guy wanted. Done he says! Sweet!

After I acquire another small item, I head home to pack. We are together and ready to go without too much hassle. After all it is just over night. So let me go over the plan.
We land about 6:00, get a car and head over to dinner with the master at 7:00 p.m. which is 30 min from the airport. Then we head over to see my brother after dinner which ends at 8:30, next a stop at a friend who just got out of the hospital. From there back to the hotel around 11:00 p.m. Up early the next morning to pickup my Cuz. and another zendude at the airport, before heading over to the day retreat with the master. That was the plan and this should be a clue that when I say that was the plan, the universe had other plans…

We arrived to the airport on time, with easy access to the loading gate through the checkpoints. Once there things went downhill. First the flight was delayed 15 min.

Ok, no biggie, Once we got on the plane, something is wrong another delay. Then leave the gate, doh, something is still wrong,

It has to do with some lights we are told. Finally we are on the run way, and we stop again, this time told, delay 10 min, then it was back to the gate for a mechanic. We finally take off at 6:00pm one hour late.

We arrive in Ontario @ 7:00. Barley enough time, the diner had started. We got a car and made it to the restaurant by 7:30… We find, NO ONE there we know or knew us or the party we are looking for. We are told, perhaps that it was another place, which had almost the same name, but was across town… I find out later another restaurant was chosen.

I let it go as a lost effort. It is now 8:00 p.m. Rather than go visiting, I take the evening so far as a sign, I feel I should just bag the evening and find the hotel then decide. I was a bit concerned about where the location was, it was suppose to be near the airport by a few minutes, but I saw no signs of hotel on our way to the freeway. So we drive back to the airport area, I call for directions. I get some rough idea we are on the wrong side of from where we want to be. I should go look for this street and follow that to blah blah. Ok we drive, and drive, and look and look. We call again. More directions to a street I can not find. Oh did a say we have a map as well with none of the street on it working like we are told, if they are even there on the map!! I stop and ask a local, I get pointed in the right direction, I drive, and locate one street name, but nothing of the intersection. I stop again in a gas station, the lady, makes the call herself and writes down the directions. Thank God for folks like that, we finally got to the hotel at 11:00 p.m.. So much for any other traveling. The Force did not want us out and about visiting. We called it a night after locating some food.

Sunday with the Master.

We needed an early start in the morning…it is not everyday one meets a spiritual leader…and a deputy Abbot of Shaolin Temple.

We are at the hotel desk the next morning, Sunday, checking out. I ask the person behind the desk. Is the airport that way? and point let’s say north. She says, err ummm, I’m not sure.
We check the map, she looks up something. she points the other direction, south, I check the map hmmmm ok hmmm…
We are heading to the airport to pickup my Cuz and another person. We go about 4 blocks I feel something is not right, Lady Z also checking the map says something is not right with the direction. What kind of workers are these who can not give directions to and from the airport?! I ask a cop on a bike about the airport. He points north, ( the other way ) and gives me directions. We are there in 10 min. !!! Yeaa CHP!!! Arigato!!!

We make it to the airport, pickup my Cuz, pickup boarding passes for the trip home, pickup the other dude from Texas and we are off to see the Master. That went smooth, as did the trip to the Meditation center. We arrived in plenty of time for a few introductions and good to see you again happy faces and get settled into a seating spot before things start.

We were in the third row. sitting on foam mats. Yuk!, These are not comfortable and we are not suppose to bring cushions. For some reason this group does not use cushions, only if one really needs it, they prefer none. However it is ok to sit in a chair if you need. When at home sitting I use a traditional Japanese style cushion, when I practice in Fremont I use a smaller cushion, I find it makes a difference when doing long sessions. MAybe the floor things is par tof the training.
Anyway, the morning lecture was to be two hours. It was going to be a long sit, being still, respectful and sitting correctly, there was going to be some suffering, training time. Very much like Kung Fu training, learning to go beyond the discomfort… pain. (We most of us were suffering at the first hour. We did get a break. Even my senior said his legs hurt. We could not tell !!)

We get a few announcements from a couple of seniors, then told to center ourselves quietly and wait. We were sitting for 15 min or so before the master arrives. The Shifu arrived just about 10:00.

He walked up with a couple of aids. He looked young for the age I thought he was. Small in stature, calm in energy and face. I was curious about his energy, his chi, I can not say that I was covered with this aura of goodness and mercy, he did however feel like he is a good person a peaceful person. I got no sense of a power figure from him. Nor did I get a car salesman vibe, or the cult leader vibe from him or the others. I was pleased. Shifu spoke in a soft voice. Softer than I expected after listening to the DVD. He spoke with a soft convection. There were no robes or other formal ceremonial trappings. He wore a regular Chinese style dress jacket, with a gold Chain necklace with a small shrine/temple image with a Jade Buddha inside. I also had on my Gold chain with a Chinese Jade, it is of Fu Dogs ( Lion Dogs, the temple guards). I felt a connection 🙂

Now as i post this, something comes to mind. He is wearing a jade temple, I am wearing jade temple guards… whoa…is it a sign… is it real…or memorix? * incert twilight zone music track here*

The first of his lecture was about Ch’an, the nature of Ch’an , why we need it. For balance of body, mind and spirit. It was also about the non-religious heart of Zen (ch’an) how Ch’an helps enhance whatever your faith. Ch’an is about the heart of man, the heart of nature, the heart of the universe. Our connection with all that was & is before we came up with religion. Ch’an is older than religion. He spoke of how Buddhist terms are used to describe Ch’an but it is not only Buddhist idea, or path. It is Universal in nature without the limits of names and labels. Which is why it is pushed to live it, experience it from practice not by reading books, or chanting, those are paths, ways of the mind and not true Ch’an. They are limited. He also explained the colors of our HeartZen logo.

All this had to go through translation from elder brother JM. So I’m sure it had more impact without the language change breaks and things are lessen sometimes in language and culture translations. There was a lot said, a lot I do not remember on the surface. I think that is of leaser importance than being there in the presence of the Shifu’s Chi. I wish I had a recording, maybe one will show up. There are old video sessions on line. Which I can listened to at leisure. I will do so again, I think they will sound different, now that I have seen the Shifu live…or not

We thankfully got a break after the first hour. We were suffering. I understand that part of the training in sitting is going beyond the discomfort to find calmness. Sitting is also training for life and spirit. Like doing horse stance in Kung Fu. Anyhow, you gotta break sometime.

After the second part of the morning lecture, on things, like Chakras, reincarnation, heaven, & hell. We broke for lunch. Sandwiches from Quzinos Subs! Nice, Veggie ones at that. I had two, I was hungry after a light dinner and much lighter breakfast.

I found Lady Z, my Cuz and I some shade to sit in. Oh btw, it was about 100 degrees there in Southern CA. Not at all like Northern Cal where it was somewhat cool and most of the US still dealing with coldness and snow in some places.

Not that we did not want to sit with anyone, but all the shade spots were taken, except up next the to bushes. We kind of grouped there. At some point while I was getting seconds to feed my face, brother JM came and sat and talked with the ladies and myself and one other who joined us. It is always interesting to listen to brother JM speak. He is able to explain things well. He spoke of living zen not just reading about what the Buddha did thousands of years ago from the Sutras. Basically practice and write ones own sutras. Also about the Shifu and his connection to the Force, also things that he himself had seen, and experienced. He also related how this visit came about and the number of people in attendance. My only disappointment, was that LadyZ did not get to get talk more with the other Japanese lady, she left just after lunch started and did not stay for the whole event. I did get to chat some with a couple of people about the Martial Arts side of Shaolin.

After lunch we had another session with the Shifu. Before he arrived, we were given Amber colored bracelets, which he, the Shifu had brought with him from Taiwan or south America ( I did not quite get which which) and had done blessings on. Generally we are told that the Shifu get the gifts. But with him he gives to his students, he has no needs.

We were asked to submit questions for him. He would address them. There were many questions. He went through them for the next hour and there were still more. I do not remember all of them. But some of his answers where funny and informative. I was pleased to hear him saying, he was not a Buddha. ( shows humbleness) He would say that The Dala Lama is the only one he has met. He also spoke on our need to do something about the environment a living presense. He spoke on Greed, and how in a sense staying up past 11:00 or 12:00 doing something is a form of greed. Our bodies operate on a natural cycle, when we disrupt that cycle by a choice we are being greedy. It was remarked later by my cuz she noticed, he did not directly answer some of the questions. He touched on them, but some things, he said needed to be experienced not just told this is how it is. Which is part of what our practice is about. Not being told how things are and feel but to practice and experience for ourselves what things are, and how they feel. That way you are not living, doing, acting on faith, on a belief, you are living an experience.

By now into the second section my legs are killing. I hear others around me shifting as well. I do not feel so bad now, others are suffering with me, we are a team 🙂
I am hoping for a break, my legs and my bladder need a break!!! The break did not come, but we finished that section early. Next it was meet and greet time with the Shifu. We lined up, with people who had met Shifu before standing in the rear. Us new folks in the front. Finally it was our turn. I was introduced and I introduced the Lady Z in Chinese. We had an exchange of words, in Japanese & Chinese then had a couple of pictures taken.

It was getting close to the end of the day now. Our plane would be leaving soon. There was another stop to make. This was the last meeting at this location. There was a new center which we were going to today so that the master could bless the location. So many of us headed over to the new park location.

We all relocated to the new place, the Shifu came last and we lined up to greet him. Once in the new room there was a Buddha painting that was hung.

The master did some brief ceremony that had to do with opening the “eyes” of the Buddha, turning on the light, otherwise it was just a painting. He did the blessing on the room and on all of us there. I did not get the words, but I understood what was happening.

Interestingly when I got home I thought to myself a couple of times that evening and the next day how peaceful I felt. Like everything would be ok, don’t worry be happy.
Later the next day I get an email from Brother JM, he said, he may have forgot to translate what was happening with the blessing. He said

“At the Heritage Park, when our Master turned around toward us, after he turn on the light for the Buddha, did you notice that he did a sprinkling like gesture to all of us? That is to sprinkle us with the Loving kindness of Buddha.

If you are calm, you can feel the energy. Some of us may even feel like crying.”

Wow I thought that is just how I felt. Not the crying part, but for real a sense of peace.

Anyway, back to the retreat, we are now to the closing. We take group pictures outside and end. Then we three head off to the airport sadly leaving the rest of the group. It was a good trip. Great to see old faces, and met the new ones. Meeting Shifu was an honor and worthwhile for the trip. My Christian side felt better not feeling any conflict coming from him. My Buddhist side felt comfort in meeting the Shifu and receiving the blessings. Being a Christian Buddhist or Zen Christian, I need to have internal balance and harmony with the concepts of both in my heart and mind.Yeah I knew there is no such things a Zen Christian or the like, but people make up labels all the time. I can also. Oh, maybe Shaolin Christian Buddhist , Christain Shaolin Buddhist,…A rose by any other name…Hmmm maybe I can start a new Christian Buddhist Ch’an Sect…

We made it back to the airport and made our plane with time to spare. We three sat together on the flight home. It was good, we napped a bit on our 1.15 hr flight. I said to my cousin. Wow, when we were growing up in Philly who would have ever thought we’d be flying back to the S.F. area after meeting with a Chinese Zen master from Taiwan in LA. Life is a trip isn’t!

Thursday Chen w/Shisuk

11 04 2008

Training/practice takes different shapes, different time. It had been a long day for me, nothing stressful just long, doing misc stuff. I was not up to going out late to Shisuks for practice. This was one those telling moments of what path you take on things, your spirit. I was not up for going , but I did. Part of training is just doing it.

The class had more students attending than cars, in the lot. I was a bit surprised. I bowed and entered. I headed to the back to put up my jacket and stuff then went back on the floor. I was checking out a few picture and getting a bit loosened up when Mae comes up with her orders from Shisuk, we are to practice Chen.

Nice!, I wanted to go over some Chen parts I knew I was missing so this worked out well. I thought Shisuk would have me doing breathing and silk weaving drills. I was pleased it was Chen tonight.

Chen is my favorite of the Tai Chi Chuan sets I have learned. I enjoy the feel of strong yin and yang flow, with the fa jing and the Spiraling chi. As I wrote that I flashed on a thought of trying to send that spiraling chi to the arrow next time I shoot. Maybe I am thinking too liner when I shoot. Just something to test… Away I digress.

I am pleased to be able to learn Chen from Shisuk, who can relate how things work and the crossover with our mantis techniques. He teaches heavy heavy basics, as well as where and how the power travels, the expanding spirals, the expansions and contractions of the body and chi flow. Balance, being centered, rooted, yet flexible. A bamboo in the storm…

I will miss my elders when I go to Nihon. I am blessed to know them and learn from them…Life will provide me with new Elders to learn from. Perhaps I have already met them…

Chen style for me is more like I’m doing Kung Fu and not just ‘motion zen”. This Chen, Shisuk is training me with, will be the advanced level training for my students under the Japanese Program. Yang 24-beginners, Chu 24 Palm-intermediate, Chen 24 – advanced. This will be in addition to other practice training, but these will be the forms for the foundation of the Tai Chi Chaun Path along with some Zazen. I think these give a good balance on training, rather than just a long 106 movement form few would practice. This way even if they picked just one form to learn and practice, and drill and digest and make it theirs… it would be a worthwhile path, for any age, even more so an active, heath wise senior, or middle age seeker!

So how was my practice tonight, ままをを! Some parts I felt better with because I have been practicing. I try to remember what I was told last time, and watch the girl I am following, with Shisuk watching me. He corrects her in Chinese , I listen, and correct myself. The lady I am following has gotten amazingly better with her Tai Chi in the last few years.

It was a short session, Shisuk needed to leave on time. So when the Lady I was with needed to leave, I left as well. It had been a while since I had trained with the WC school on a regular basis. They all said, WoW so short, you should stay. I thanked them but needed to go. It was their class time, another time for me, if it is in the Tao.

Kyudo brain II

10 04 2008

Cooks cornerWhen I was a kid, staying with my Grandfather, he would not let me have a rifle like the other kids. I had to use a bow & arrow when I went out hunting with them or target shooting. When staying in the house, I’m taking about countryside here, there was some critter that use to get into my room. I did not know what it was, I stayed up waiting for it one night, and shot it. Imagine my shock when the arrow just bounced off it’s thick hide! Yeah, I’ve been into bows for a long time…

This Kyudo thing is a natural for me with that background. Another reason why my mind has been so Kyudo focused, I think also it gives me something else to think about other than finding work during a recession.

I heard more about the Tiger clan Kyudo retreat. We are suppose to be up at 5:30am and lights out for all at 10:30pm. Everything is suppose to be planned out to give maximum exposure to all activities. From Zazen to Long Range shooting. I’m hopeful there will be some free time for me to take pictures, do Tai Chi and read. In a way I am looking forward to this more than the Ch’an retreat, where we will just sitting and listen, sit and talk, sit and well…sit. There will be a little a Tai Chi and motion zen, very little and I’m teaching the Tai Chi. This will also be a good retreat, just different, I’m really pleased the Lady Z is going. We will also be close enough to visit our Nihon homies at night.

I came across an old book I had called Buddhist Yoga whilst doing some storage room clearing. I studied Yoga a lot some 30 yrs ago. I also had Yoga as a large part of my Kung Fu class for a while. I changed it to almost nothing due to time reasons. I plan on bring it back more into the Japan program. There is a large population over fifty I plan on tapping into. I figured to start with my own training. I was surprised when the Lady Z also said she would like to learn some Yoga. So back to the book. This book I read years ago, when I found it I thought it was mostly about positions. It is really very little about positions, some, but mostly about the Principle Oneness of Body and Mind. From Breathing, Skin care, and Food, to Meditation, Repentance & Gratitude. Same things we speak of in Zen Practice…

きゅうどう Kyudo brain のう

10 04 2008

There is not a correct word for what I wanted to say so i made up the Katana for it. So on with the post.

I had Kyudo on the brain lots lately. (For those reading from somewhere non-english that meant I’ve been thinking a lot about Kyudo) I really enjoyed the lesson with the guy and got me reading some more on Kyudo from others. It is so much about connection with the mind sitting and being still and the non-duality in movement. Maybe I’m finding it more interesting because of the connection I see with Ch’an and Shaolin fist. Yet is this missing so much in most classes. With the Tiger school it is right there in your face. Not hidden down some side path you may subtle across like a secluded stream. Or something made reference to like an old story. Meditation is part of this style, it is the medium of Kyudo. This Kyudo is a Motion expression of our meditation. Kung Fu to Ch’an exactly ! Tai Chi to Ch’an, Yoga to Ch’an.

The other part of this is after meeting with Instructor S. ( InS) I could see Kyudo here as a foot in the door to Japan Kyudo. Part of my golden years study plan in Japan. Ceramics, Kyudo, Zen. I do have a foot in already from meeting with the Master there in Osaka. Which is where we will be living, how about that for the Force working. However anyway I would like some proper training, as not to embarrass myself.

Meanwhile back here in the states now… I had contacted the other person recommend by InS. From the first email contact, I did not feel, compatible vibes let’s say, from Instructor E. So after a couple of brief exchanges about time, I was pretty much told, if I was not willing to full comment to Kyudo practice on a regular basis, he did not have the patience to deal with that type of student. Not those exact words, but with that meaning. Also explained that in his 35 yrs of doing Kyudo and 10 yrs teaching, it was harder and more time eating that thought, he did not like the frustration of dealing with someone who came once in a while.


The thing is I understand what he was saying, his way of saying, it was not my way. His philosophy on teaching is a bit different, and other areas no doubt. With that in mind, and the chi that I am picking up from his letters, it is a bad fit for a teacher /student relationship. I thanked him and said I would not add to his frustrations. Sumimasen.

So , I’m thinking, driving 1 hour to a class is not so bad once a month, I do/did it with Shifu’s classes. If I get what I need out of it, at my speed, that is more important to me that I enjoy it. The guy, who is a higher rank I went to first is looking better. Kind of sad though, I was hoping I could be friends with this closer guy, Instructor E. I think he speaks some Japanese fairly well. I was wondering if his wife is Japanese. I asked about if spoke Japanese in the intro letter, but I was ignored for an answer. For the best no doubt, if our chi clashes via email it will surely be inharmonious live.

Another part of this Kyudo brain is the retreat coming up. I am really looking froward to it. I know that it is not in Japanese training now to have the Zazen as part of the Kyudo training , but I like how the Sensei has them combined. Along with it being at a Zen temple and farm in the mountains, makes it even cooler. I would stick with just this style if I was staying here in the states. I like the non-duality approach to Kyudo. For me it no difference with Kung Fu and I understand that from my Ch’an practice. However it s a different style Kyudo being taught in Japan and that is where I am going. For now though I can just learn about shooting, like Zen beyond a style. Like Tai Chi, and Praying Mantis understanding the principals behind the motions, understanding the mind and spirit is more important than what style it is. As with Zen the style does not matter, it is about the journey.


Source Material: Dan and Jackie DeProspero

Much has been written about the philosophical connections of kyudo. Perhaps most known is the book Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel. In his book Mr. Herrigel sets forth his experiences with kyudo in the 1930’s. It was a beautifully written account that has been translated into many languages, giving people worldwide their first glimpse of the art. Unfortunately, the book was very one-sided in its description of kyudo as a Zen art and is responsible for a lot of the current misconception that kyudo is a religious activity.

While kyudo is not a religion it has been influenced by two schools of Eastern philosophy: The previously mentioned Zen, a form of Buddhism imported from China, and Shintoism, the indigenous faith of Japan. Of the two, the influence of Shintoism is much older. Ritualistic use of the bow and arrows have been a part of Shintoism for over two thousand years. Much of the kyudo ceremony, the attire worn by the archers, and the ritual respect shown for the equipment and shooting place are derived from ancient Shinto practice.

The influence of Zen, on the other hand, is more recent, dating back to the Kamakura Period (1185-1333) when the warrior archers adopted Zen as their preferred method of moral training. Zen’s influence on kyudo became even greater in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries when Japan, as a whole, experienced a period of civil peace. During that time the practice of kyudo took on a definite philosophical leaning. This is the period when sayings like “one shot, one life” and “shooting should be like flowing water” were associated with the teaching of kyudo. Because of its long and varied past, modern Japanese archery will exhibit a wide variety of influences. Today, at any given kyudojo (practice hall), one can find people practicing ancient kyujutsu, ceremonial court games, rituals with religious connections, and contests of skill. The key to understanding kyudo is to keep an open mind and realize that any style of kyudo you see or practice is but a small part of a greater whole, and that each style has its own history and philosophical underpinnings which make them all equally interesting and important.

Sunday Kyudo…in a distance place.

7 04 2008

“The correct practice of Zen centers on ellimination of all attachements, including attachment to the correct practice. The True Follower of Zen, simply does Zen”…TaMo

A few days ago, maybe a week … or so, I thought about looking into other Kyudo schools in the area. There were several I found all linked to a Federation or Assoc. out of Japan. I figured why not check it out. There were a couple of things I noticed in Japan that were not happening when I attend the current class. I wanted to see where there was a difference.

It was a beautiful Sunday , warm Northern Ca day!! Wow great, Hills are covered with sades of green, and splashes of spring flowers. I have been, I think more grateful for these moments of clearity. Maybe the sitting is changing my mind… I digress

It was a pleasant hour drive in light traffic to meet the instructor. There were parts of the sky that looked like rain. I got a real sense of being back in Hawaii with all the green mountains and clear to dark skies I got to enjoy. I arrived at his house on time and meet his wife. He was playing the flute, and reading the music. I was impressed and for a flash I thought hmmm flute lessons. I did snap back to Kyudo after the flute was put away. They instructer S and the wife, seemed nice. I meet the cats, they were very shy. I was told that if the weather was good, he taught at the park and rec center, if it was not. We would shoot at home.

Since it was questionable on the weather Instructer S (IrS) deciedes we will stay at his place and shoot. Ok,…I’m thinking garage, in the back yard.. nope.. in the living room, Whoa, He has the equipment and, so after a few mintues of assembly we are ready to shoot with the Makawara Straw target. I am intrigued so little space can be use.

IrS is a knowledgable guy, 6 Dan certified in Japan. I pickup some interesting tips and corrections. There was only the two of us. He checked me out to see what how little I know and were my weakness are to be worked on. I do a couple of shots. He gives me some tips. I also ask about how to do the proper entrance to the floor and I am shown. We work mostly on my draw and grip. after some explaining and my identifing some of the same things Shisuk had said about when doing Tai CHi, what I was told sunk in more. I could relate it to something I was doing and was told to practice more of anyway by Shisuk. I also related some of how the bow grip , is similar to a mantis grip in Kung fu. One of the differences in this style, there is not much, is that they start the draw from high in front of the face. Where are thee other style starts more from an angle and tlit. I remember now Onii-san from the tiger school Said about one is the fighting or warrior style the other is the court style. I am more comfortable with the court style. It is the same as a Tai Chi opening. My body already flows to that position.

I was also run through some of the three kneeling positions and explained the sitting one. It was painful and interesting. I will need some losing up, interestingly again in another spot Shisuk tells me I need for my Tai Chi to improve, more horse stance. Hmmm ok, so I really need to work on those drills Shisuk showed me, I get a two win thing happing.I understand how Tai Chi helps my Mantis & Shaolin Fists. I did not expect it with the kyudo. Not only with the flow of the breath and chi but also the expanding end contraction of the body use of the body structure to be totally in the shot as in total in to a push or a punch Having that structure in place to support the push , the punch , the draw, starts in legs, the feet…

So over all, after I relaxed ( I’m nervous, with new people) the lesson was very good. I was shocked when I was told there was no charge!!! Whooa!! With me not working I was not going to insist and ruin his gift. So I just said that you & bowed. He said he enjoys teaching people the art Kyudo. I was impressed with his heart. My Japanese side said I need to do something for him, a gift… Too bad he lived so far, I thought to myself. I could come more often… the gas right now,…och…I was informed there was another dojo, of his style organization in my area I should look him up.


I was welcome to come back anytime…arigato

So which school do like better? Not a matter of like better. There is clear wisdom in walking a path that is mirrored in Nihon…with Nihon to be your path…ね

…however for now:

The True Follower of Zen, simply does Zen”…TaMo

What I did find lacking in this class and I also found in Nihon is there is no meditation in the opening. I had heard this was something the Sensei from the Tiger school added in. No matter. I am glad I found that one first it gave me a direction to go with my Kung Fu Class and training. It really helped my mind focus on adding that part into my class and training. I enjoy doing the meditation before doing activity , Yin before yang. I am also looking forward to the Retreat at the Zen Center, with the Tiger group. Even though the princess will be there and treat me like a invisible person, the style of Zen mediation practiced there is different from the one I practice, the style of Kyudo is different from the one I may end up doing…No matter

The True Follower of Zen, simply does Zen”…TaMo