haPpy NEw yEar – あけまして。。。

31 12 2008

ny-card

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

the Zen Crew  _/)

_/|\_

____________________________

A master of the tea ceremony in old Japan once accidentally slighted a soldier. He quickly apologized, but the rather impetuous soldier demanded that the matter be settled in a sword duel. The tea master, who had no experience with swords, asked the advice of a fellow Zen master who did possess such skill. As he was served by his friend, the Zen swordsman could not help but notice how the tea master performed his art with perfect concentration and tranquility. “Tomorrow,” the Zen swordsman said, “when you duel the soldier, hold your weapon above your head, as if ready to strike, and face him with the same concentration and tranquility with which you perform the tea ceremony.” The next day, at the appointed time and place for the duel, the tea master followed this advice. The soldier, readying himself to strike, stared for a long time into the fully attentive but calm face of the tea master. Finally, the soldier lowered his sword, apologized for his arrogance, and left without a blow being struck.

_________________________________

New Year Awaits

New waters to sail

Fair winds or storms

may your center be calm…Zen 08′ _/)

_/|\_


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the last Ya…08′

31 12 2008

The group yells, Hai!

This is in response to the Last Shot call the instructor says. Everyone prepares themselves mentally to mount their last Ya や or arrow in English and release their last class shot of the year 2008. In a spiritual mind or those with strange thinking patterns like me, it could be a symbol of releasing all the problems, broken dreams, frustration of the year. Starting fresh with no attachments. This is part of the reason Japanese spend so much effort into cleaning at the end  of the Year. In the West the big clean is in the spring. Of course this is really just the Solar year, and we are still on the tail of the Rat. It is to many the dawn of a new day, to coin a phrase. It was the last Kyudo Class for the year. Since New Year is the Big Deal of this holiday season in Japan, where at one time companies took 1 or 2 weeks off from working, and we are partly a Japanese household well go with that for this post.

kyudome

I had not attended Kyudo since the summer Sonoma Mtn Trials. I had thought of it, but with the tight money and high gas prices. I passed on attending. There is also that problem of it being on the same night as my Kung Fu classes, that is a BIG road block. In truth the biggest. Moving on…

With having done a Year End gathering with the Shaolin groups ( Shaolin-Mantis, Chan) I felt it would be fitting to also meet for year end Kyudo practice. It worked out that I was not going to have my Shaolin class for the next two Mondays, gas was back below two dollars, so I made plans to attend Kyudo in Berkeley.

It was good to see my elders, H & L, the few others that showed up I have no sense of closeness to and there was one new to me guy. He seemed like he could be a likable kind of person and I think he is Multi-cultural Afro. It was interesting listening to “Oni-san” tell of his journey into the world of Kendo. How it is still very old world traditional. Along with that sense of being a “Gaijin” in the group and older one at that, who could not possibly   to dedicate his soul to the practice of Kendo. I smiled and said yeah, being very familiar with the comments of those  new to the realm of discrimination when dealing with Japanese. Having grown up with discrimination from everywhere, we people of color are always shocked in the other direction, when we are not discriminated against. When I went to the Kyudo Dojo in Osaka, I was blown away by how nice and accommodating people were, well once the Sensei showed me his acceptance. 🙂

It felt good to be back in Kyudo class, the one here, the Zenko Tiger school is run different from most others I have seen, in that it has incorporated the meditation as part of it’s training. It was good to have the formal settling of the mind and spirit before doing the “Motion Zen” as we would call it in Shaolin Chan. I just recalled my Shotokan Sensei would also have us do some kneeling meditation before starting and ending the class also. The formal surroundings of the Mediation Hall, with it’s wall hangings, cushions, gong, candles and the lot also helped with ones sense of formality. I was a bit late for the start of Zazen, I was having problems remembering how to tie all the belts and cords on my Hakama. I did not get the full twenty minutes, but I got a good chuck in of sitting.

Our first shots were group shots. Everyone lined up walked to the target following the lead person. Everyone, did the preparation and draw following the timing of the lead person. Similar to doing group Tai Chi, trying to match pace and timing of the lead person. However in Kyudo the timing is just slightly behind the person in front so that it is more like a wave of movement whilst shooting. It is a different kind of harmonic flow than the locked flow of Tai Chi Group practice or a combat Shaolin two person drill. A diferent expanding of sensitvity and timing.

Following that, were individual shots at ones own pace. This is where it is all about you, the Bow, the arrow, the shot. Taking each individual moment and making them one moment. Again different from Tai Chi in that there is no visual timing flow, no continuous movement sense. Here there are breaks, a few pauses. Places where you can check yourself, recenter if needed, it is the flow of having white space on a page design, a break in your part in a musical orchestration, a breath.

My Tabi slippers being still fairly unused, gave me the extra challenge when setting up my shot of needing to take an extra moment to be sure I was grounded.  I could not fully lock into the ground as my feet would slide outward. I would always need to find the line of balance and slip and stay just behind that location. I noticed some there wore bare feet. They could lock securely to the floor. They had their own other challenges to deal with.  Me, I had many from the ground up. Not that I did not shoot well, but I was multi-level challenged. Stance, recalling, execution, form, grip, release.

My first correction/suggestion came on my 10 year grip. This is the way one hold the Yumi,  ゆみ the bow. It is said it takes 10 years to have the correct grip. Similar to it takes 10 years to understand the basics of Tai Chi. ( that is true by the way). I was showed the correct grip again and where I needed to focus on.  I was told I hold too tight to the Yumi. There it was again, that “Zen” thing. That non-attachment thing, be connected but not clinging, not attached. Smack in the face from seemingly out of no where. The Tao of course is always there. The Yumi should turn in one’s hand when the Ya is released. This motion helps release some of the energy built up, similar to following through on a swing or punch. I was not there yet and did not expect to see that port for a while.

I took a break and sat to the side. I grabbed a few photos, with did not turn out well. While sitting or taking a break I always recall the Master words from Osaka. Practice , watch,  observe, practice. I took in the others and tired to feel what they were doing. It was during this time that Oni-san comes to me and says. You have a beautiful draw…

I could hear the silent “but”…

It was a tactful way of bring on a correction, it sailing they call it the crap sandwich. Start with something good then, bring on the crap, end with good 🙂  I smiled with the knowledge and said, oh.. but…I hear a “but” , giving him the opening.

Do you mind some advice? he said; not at all I replied. He then proceeded to help with my shoulder adjustment and position. He explained that I am not supposed to be drawing by strength even though I am blessed with it. All his next few minutes teaching came translated into Tai Chi lessons from Sisuk. Do not use arm power, use your chest and body expansion, not arm power.

Ok, so Zen/Kyudo life lessons crossovers for 08′:

Stay connected in everyday living but do not cling, non-attachment. ( Hold the Yumi firm but not too tight)
Your power should come from within ( trust the Force Luke), not from Physical strength. ( draw by expanding your body, breath not arm strength)





Christmas in Zenland

31 12 2008

In our bubble here in Nor-Cal I have tired to ignore the world stuff during the holidays,  so our Christmas was quiet and peaceful. Which was exactly as we wanted it. LZ had off for a change and she was mixed in feelings on having it, because it meant she would have to work on New Years day. To Japanese that is the big event. Christmas is fun and all that, but New Years is the big Kauna.

glass-n-candles

Anyway back to Christmas, we did not go anywhere. I spoke with my Mum by phone. #2 son sent an e-card, and #1 is Muslim. A few cards came from friends, and a we did Skype chat with our buds. In the pad ( that is old school talk for home) or Crib (as we called it, back in the day) we were warm and cozy. It was suppose to rain but it did not, no matter we had no plans other than to chill for the day. We did my little happy birthday JC ceremony and kickit (relaxed) the rest of the day.

undertree

We had put up some Christmas decoration around the house. LZ likes that Christmas lights feeling, we did all blue this year.

tree

Dinner was Simple, looked good, Hot, Filling, and Oishii ( yummy)  and inexpensive. It was a good day in Zenland. We felt thankful.

table

Sat. we went drove out to Sac to visit my Mum. The traffic was horrible! It made me sad. I really dislike sitting in traffic. It does not get me bent out of shape it is just , sad to sit there being late. However before that…hills

We had a the chance to view the Apt that LZ had been craving to see.  We drove over there before heading to Sac.

freeway

It was in a good location, the price was good, the building was good, the Apt layout was good, the view was not. It was a let down.One can just see a sliver of a view if one looks across the top of the bulding . Yeah the one with the trash cans.

view-2

More so for her than me. I could tell before I saw from the balcony, when I was in the parking lot the view would not be all that. I was correct. Oh well, when the Need is ready the Place will come. That is part of that trusting the Tao/God/ Great Spirit/Universe thing… That on going lesson…test… whatever.

Ganbatte!  Yosh !





Merry Christmas- Happy Holidays

23 12 2008

candles-wish

Whatever you celebrate, may it be filled with love. Best wishes for a Happy Love filled Holiday.





Final Fu 08… A tradition is born

23 12 2008

With SiSuk in China training, there were no parties at the Walnut Creek School. Every year we spend with the other schools exchanging holiday wishes and cheers. It occurred to me, strongly this year, that my school does nothing. We go the the party at Sisuk’s school, as Shifu’s is farther away. Only I go to both, it is  giri.

Even so we do not have anything of an event at my school, it is just training. I usually do not think much about it as our number is very small and out of that only a couple put in the energy outside of class. With the closing of the “formal” school I tend to be even more relaxed with formality….yin/yang on the cost.

Merry Christmas from the Tai Mantis Kung Fu Asooc.

That is however one of the things that unite a school are their events shared. Not the location of the training.  This year I decide to make a tradition for my school. When I studied Karate on New Year workout, Sensei would have us drink 100 shots of Sake. Like this 10 shots, 10 kicks, 10 shots 10 punches, etc. I did not want to go exactly that route, but I did want something. Something simple yet, symbolic.

This was our end of the year workout and will be the first class of the New Year workout:

Stretch

Bow in, to open class

Sit in circle and share 2 cups of warm Sake

sake

Shaolin Chan Breath drills

Seated Meditation

Tai Chi

Mantis 8 stance drills

Shaolin Tan Tui

Mantis Single step drill

Small open door two person drill

Seated Meditation

Bow end class

It was a simple ceremony and workout practice. It covered the basics of training on several levels. The students seemed to appreciate it. We will copy the steps on the first class on the New Year. The only thing I need to add is the Chinese style bow and incense to a picture  SiGong, that will be on the New Year.

…a Tradition is born





Four days of Parties…4th Day

23 12 2008

Sunday morning I needed to get up fairly early , but much later than I do daily, but not on Sunday, which is later because I stayed up late on Sat. Ok.. Moving on.

zen-kanji

I made Breakfast for LZ and I and took her to work. Yup it was cold, but it is winter so it is expected now . My plan today was to head to the Fremont Taiwanese- American center. This is the usual meeting place for the Shaolin Chan meetings. Today were were to have a small Christmas gathering in addition to our session. I found it interesting, energy wise , to have the Yang of Shaolin party one night, then the Yin the next day. That’s just me.

I arrive at the stated time, but a find there are people standing outside. I am told by Shijie, that the person who is suppose to be there to let us in is not. They have been waiting 30 min. Bummer I thought, it’s cold. We waited together with the others that showed up fro another 30 min at least before we were let in. There was more to this than I’m writing but, you get the idea.

We got things setup inside and did a bit of chatting. From there we watched a DVD with a lecture and a drill from Shifu filmed in Taiwan. I was not expecting it. I had not been to a advanced session in a while and had forgotten the lecture DVD from to to time is shown. Shifu spoke on mercy and being humble. He told a story form the life of Buddha as an example. He also explained about activating the Drama eye Chakra and lead the drill. Chakra point and Chi are a big part of Shaolin Chan meditation, not just sitting and not thinking.

After the film we did our group meditation. I have not mentioned about the room as yet…COLD!!  One sister had brought a reflector heater, since the room has the heater turned off. I had been in this room before when it was cold, no fun. So I was prepared. I dress in layers and the final layer had a hood for my head. I also brought along my wool blanket. So when I sat I felt very snug and warm. however I looked quite funny. They showed me a reflection via the computer camera.  I looked like a alien. All you could see was this mass wrapped in a blanket and hood. You could see no face. I felt like Ta-Mo in this picture, but more covered.

bodhidharmayoshitoshi1887

We had popcorn, cookies and tea afterward as our Christmas snack-in party.  After a few conversations, we took off after exchanging holiday greetings and well wishes.

_/|\_





Four days of Parties..3rd day

23 12 2008

Sat, eve, it is another cool day, I bundled up, Sifu’s school is always cold. Which is generally ok, because we are moving around, but just standing talking gets cold. So I head down to the Campbell school the traffic is horrible. Being the last weekend before Christmas really but a plug on the traffic flow.  I was glad I left with plenty of time for such delays also I was not on tight schedule.

the-three1

Once at Shifu , I said my general hellos as usual and settled into a couple of chats with a group. Shixong B was telling us of his visit to another  Sisuk’s school and tornament in BC Canada.

Not everyone was there for the potluck, so even with being late I was on time. It turns out to be less people than at the Thanksgiving party. This was more like the expected group. After some others arrive , the general chit chat was done, food was open.  Shifu said Ladies and Kids first, this was a break from a traditional Kung Fu/Chinese style where the elders would go first. It was Shifu’s call to do whatever style he wished.

thetable

I was able to get a fair size plate of Veggie foods there is always thought given to that here, although most are not of the veggie path. It is still nice to be thought of and planned for and not just a pizza after-thought.

At the table Shifu’s wife filled me in on her explorations into the realm of Feng Shui. She sounds like she is really enjoying herself. She already has a name for her business. Happy Planet Feng Shui. Some people think it is silly including her instructor. She says she want it to have a light not so serious feel about it.

stnading

After eating I was making my was around to various groups of chatter and I notice that Shifu is in his office with another senior student. I make it a point when I see Sifu looking like he is doing something. to head in that direction, figuring I may learn something. This case as it generally is a pay off. Shifu was explaining a move from Shaolin. He says,  a lot of not quality Shifus, who do not know what this move is, will simply say oh, it is just a transmission or just ignore it. However what is really happening is this… and explains and demos. I say Shifu, I always thought it was doing this… but I thought it would be hard to pull off because of the power needed. He said yes. It is very difficult to pull what you are thinking off.  There is no body power to break here. This move is a part of a series of out-latches. Itis not just soemthign that feels good to do. many get caught up in that and do not understand it’s true function. So there was my lesson(s)… nice!

Shifu and Brian

Shifu and Brian

After a bit move chatting with Shifu and doing a hand drill with another classmate, I head back to the main party preparing to go. I have an hour drive ahead of me. One of the three senior students there at the Campbell school comes over to me. We have known each other for years he is one of the three active students that are my seniors there with Shifu. I had a good opinion of him which had grown this summer when he offered to cover my seminar fee this year. I was in for yet another surprise.  He says, after some talk about my job hunting, you’re into Zen right? Then he tells me about his dream when he was younger before starting with Shifu was to be a Zen priest. This was with the Soto group, the group LZ and I first started with. He had seen the pilot for the original Kung Fu show and said to himself “I want that”; he was ready to join the Soto path but chose to become a student of Shifu’s doing Kung Fu instead and meditate later. The point of this to make the story shorter is, he was so out raged to see the “monks”; from Shaolin coming to the states and competing in a dance contest. MONKS really doing their Wu Shu as Kung Fu in dance contest, he was livid!  He said he wrote to the National Geographic people to complain about their presentation of it.  I was surprised he wanted to be a Zen priest at one time. He stated that even though he was more on the Yang side of Zen training and not doing his meditation he still held to the belief of Shaolin as a real temple of Chan practice and that the current monks there are not about Zen they are about show, like their WuShu. He was insulted and pissed. I was surprised at his passion on it… and that monks were trying to serve peeps with dance. shocking!

While we were standing talking others came up and our conversation was diverted into others things with the added people. When I was finished I turned back to my Shixong he was talking with Shifu’s son. I did not catch everything , but I did hear, if that is the case, you should not give big things, and just stuff for Christmas. How many more TVs, radios the like do you or your friend need. Take that money and give it to charity or something. With so many people hurting this year, that is what my wife and I are doing. Wow, what a good spirit. My respect level went up for him.

I make my way over to see a picture album others are heading for and a small group has formed. As try to find an approach I am snagged by  one of Shifu’s students. She is a Pilot, a Sailor and some other things interest her as well as KungFu, She is pretty interesting but, talks wayyy too fast … and a lot.

Her,  the husband of a student, and myself , got into a kung fu -balance – sailing- boggie-board story in Mexico… mostly they got into a story. They keep cutting into each others sentences. It made me tired listening… I waited, until a break in the force…there was an interruption…I escaped.

My last stop before heading home was with another senior He is from Hawaii, the one who was in the accident. His father was the same generation as Shifu Eng. His father had past away a few years ago. He was given his fathers photos album, which Shixong had brought to the studio with him that night. It was full of original pictures of Chuk Kai SiGong when he was younger and teaching his father. Also picture’s of his father and some of our other Sibaks and Sisuks at younger times in their life. It was interesting to see old pix like that.  Shixong spoke of meeting with and going to dinner with Sigong when Shixong as young.  He was another person who said right off the bat how nice a man Sigong was, even though he was a well respected fighter.  My one regret on joing this system is that I never got to meet Sigong.

Merry Christmas from the Tai Mantis Kung Fu Asooc.

After saying my goodbyes to everyone , I slipped off into the night, melding into the shadow of spirit of Shaolin. It was a good visit, even nicer that gas prices are reasonable. Another one of those things to be grateful about.