Kyudo… Latitudes and Attitudes

30 07 2009

water kyudo

Here is the thing, if you are good, I’ll talk about your goodness, with praise. If you are funky, and think your stuff does not stink… I’ll open the windows and put your stink out on front street…

I had no idea what I was going to be getting into when I asked to visit the San Jose Kyudo school. I thought oh, simple I’ll just politely ask for permission to visit their class and see how they run things there. I’m getting the opinion as nice as the Southern CA people are the Northern CA Renmei group seems to be very elitists. Two of the three contacts I have had with them have not left me with pleasant impressions. Even the third parting was questionable. Maybe it has something to do with being at this Latitude. Radiation waves or something…

Sigh, of course it could be just me…that is always something to consider…let me think on that…

…hmmmm ok, It’s not me 🙂

Let’s look at the latest encounter. I wrote to the San Jose group and asked only to watch a class. I was told where they were, etc. Then I get an email back that says. They do not do “zen archery” I should contact blah blah blah. I replied Are you saying you do not teach Renmei style? The other person teaches Chikurin-ha.

Which was followed by, from him. Yes we do , but we are a Martial Arts Dojo not the feel good wanabe enlightenment zen archery school, finishing with:

“It is not zen archery i.e. shooting will not make you enlightened.
If you want to study zen then you should study zen.”

“with an email tag of shaolin.zen I think you’re going to be a lot happier with L’s group!”

Wow! What the Fudge! Very judgemental based only on my email address. I was not asked what I was looking for, only judged by my email address!! Nor did I say I wanted Zen Archery. I just asked for permission to watch their class.  Now in all fairness, I understand, the need to filter deadbeats. I do that myself, however I do give them the opportunity to say what it is they are seeking. Then I may blow them off. 🙂
All I asked here was to watch a class. So now let’s replay the contacts here in the North, I have one teacher who says:

“If you can not comment to attending every class I do not want to bother with you.”

Another who when I emailed about “kyu” ranking and tests ignores me.

And this new person who I ask to watch a class and m told because of my email address I would be happier someplace else.  Wow!

Even in Japan where I was obviously an outsider, from a different school, and one that was not respected at that, I was still taken in and treated with respect and every courtesy. If these Northern Ca people want to emulate the Japanese way of the Bow they should also emulate their manners as well. Manners and courtesy are BIG with Japanese. On the other hand, maybe they are just too low on the power pole…and have not learned, acquired that …skill. Or miss that class session.

As helpful and accommodating as the Southern Ca Sensei was the Northern Ca folks seem to have an attitude on the other end of the spectrum. At least so far as been my contact with them. The added thing is, it is not just me, I heard things from others concerning the group.  This is sad. It is not like the USA Kyudo community is a large body of folks. We are a small number here in the states. Yet with the elitist attitudes that I have come across from the Northern Ca Renmei people I can see why it stays small. Shibata Sensei’s group maybe of a New Age Feel good enlightenment kind of group, maybe not teaching true ( according to them) Kyudo  but they are polite. Not that they are without problems as well, that is to be expected when people are involved. Our egos are our biggest roadblock and always bring things down to us vs them. We as a people have problems relating to our commonness on small things, no wonder we still struggle with big things.

________

To be one with the One, we seek similarities in our lives, not differences.

We are same in our hearts, only differ in form

…HeartChan

Advertisements




Time and milestones…

28 07 2009

taimantis-logo-tradi-mI had a big event this past weekend. Not really so much big in the terms of large but a milestone type big. I have been teaching Kung Fu on my own since 1983 when I set out to open my own school and left my Shifu in Torrence, CA. A lot of miles, time and faces have past by me since then. I have not had a student stick with it, long enough to reach the symbolic Black Belt rank. My younger classmates have all graduated several Sifu’s.

This past Sat. I gave out my first black Belt rank, to a woman originally from Panama. I am using somewhat the system from Kyudo which is that being a black belt does  not make you an instructor right away. I decided to go with a two level Black Belt system. Level one ( shodan) is a Back Belt Coach. This person can teach, but can not certify another black belts. Once they reach 2nd degree ( ni-dan) they can certify. This is my version of things only.

Level two Black Belts requires, two written essays and outside study of another style for 1-2 yrs. or one of the taught styles ( Shaolin, Mantis, Tai Chi, Kali) from another teacher. At that point after passing a 2 min sparing session the person is a full Shifu from my school and the Tai Mantis Assoc. ( Not the Federation but the Tai Mantis Assoc.). That may sound complex or drawn out, however I want to feel confident in the balance of skills and knowledge of the my next generation. The rank will mean something , not just another certificate for showing up.





Kyudo n LA…Zanshin

23 07 2009

Now after a few days have past, my knees have stop aching …so much! The Chinese Jow today really helped for this mornings Zazen.zanshin

As when completing a shot one reflects on the arrow, the travel, one’s body, what was right, what is in need of improvement, the form and the formless. I’m there…

It was a great trip, visiting old friends and new ones. Learning much… As much as I like to shoot, it was great getting so much info. Good stuff about shooting better in form and spirit was priceless, and well worth, the not-shooting time. The LA Kyudo group is an experience worth having more than once. Yet, like love it is better to have it at least once , than not at all.  The Meditation, the chanting, the Tea breaks, the form and the formlessness. Although holding to the form, the formless is also embraced, respect is given equally. I was there to learn form, but the formless was also taught. Yin/Yang… Which in turn helped the form. The Sensei said when he watches for corrections to make he at times looks at the empty space in the form. Space between hand and shoulder, for example. Upon hearing words about space, and emptiness shifts my head into graphic designer/photograher mode. Then over to the Tao Te Ching, the usefulness is in the empty space in the bowl. comes to mind.  ‘To understand light, one must experience dark, to understand the form, understand the formless. ( ohhh my brain hurts)  Although Kyudo is NOT Zen, it IS also Zen, it was helpful to hear and see the connections in Philosophy and application.

The only thing I would add to the training, as in what I said about our classes in the north. That is some type of Physical warmup/Qi Gong type of drill is needed. There is still the transition gap between, moving from mind to body, stillness to movement. I saw the Sensei do some movements that were very like something we do in Motion Chan. He said at the time, if one can do this, one can shoot. The movement itself would be a great warm-up, transitional drill for the physical action of shooting. However no one did it, well except him, when using it as a explanation of mechanics. I thought that was a perfect for getting the blood and chi to the parts needed for shooting. As well as help with lowering one center. It seemed very Karate internal like.  There was another drill that was done. I’ll call the virtual shot. Where after Meditation everyone stands and goes through the motions of shooting , but without equipment. I think here, before doing that, is the spot to insert that warm-up, that would complete the transition and give “respect” to the body, muscles, bones, nerves. There is preparation of the Mind and Spirit, but not preparing the Body… Ch’an is one, not two

It occurred to me that “Kyudo” itself is on the line of Yin and Yang. That point on a drawing of the Tai Chi symbol that changes from one energy to another.  Or perhaps better said, fully embodies the Principles of both Yin and Yang. Stillness and motion, One’s feet, legs are in a stance,  lower body is firmly grounded, yet there is movement in the upper body. It is a true heaven and earth blend when shooting.

Having someone communicate in images that I can relate to was wondrous for my slow mind to grasp. Not just in words but images that came with the words, holding a sword, Yin/Yang, non-duality, hanging from heaven, expanding Chi.

Ling Sisuks, often says, practicing your Tai Chi will help your Mantis , will help your Shaolin, I understand the truth in that and now fully grasp Tai Chi will also help my Kyudo. Rooting, Alignment, Breath, Balance, Flow, Stillness, Focus, Expanding the Tan Tien,  I have often said when people say, “you do so many different things”. I respond, not really they all are expression of the same thing. Kyudo is not Zen but it is another expression of Zen.

Now for an addition to my own personal Kyudo quest… find a local place I can shoot, more than once a week or once a month . Yet …It is beneficial to know how to practice shooting , without shooting. using formlessness to practice form. That is a very Ch’an concept…ne!

——-

Side note: I wondered why it is my posts on Kyudo get the most hits. I am even surprised that something I wrote years ago still gets a large amount of play/hits. I was never ego filled enough to think it was my writing. LoL! I figured it out the other night. There are really only two blogs that write about Kyudo. There are lots of blogs on Kung Fu , Tai Chi, Zen, etc, but for the most part just  JW of Kyudo the road less Traveled and myself consistently write on our kyudo experiences. It would be nice to read some others. We Kyudo players are still a small group in the big Dojo of World Society. There are a large amount of Kyudo players in Europe. Perhaps one if them will step forward.





Kyudo n LA…Rancho Park

22 07 2009

LA Kyudo…the Bow

IMG_4503

Sanmi-Ittai, the harmony of three elements. For Kyudo, Japanese archery it is Body – Mind/Spirit – Bow.

This is what I consider the third element of my visit to the LA Kyudo group. This also is the third element to their practice. It could even be looked at in terms of Shin, Zen, Bi – truth, goodness, and beauty of Kyudo…

There was first the Mind/Spirit of Kanzeonji   ( Zen – goodness),
Next was the Body of Japanese Cultural Center ( Bi – Beauty).
Last stop on the tour is Rancho Park Archery range this is what I’ll call the Bow ( Shin – the Truth). Here  at Ranch Park it is not about style, it is about shooting and distance shooting at that. The Rei is there, the form is there, now it is using the bow…The truth speaks. …Shin Zen Bi

Sunday morning thinking I had more time than I did, I got a late start, then got turned around with the directions and was much later to the range than I wanted to be. Once there I had to adapt and blend quickly. I was surprised to see everyone in full Hakamas. In the Bay Area when shooting at the park we do not dress, just shoot in street gear. We are overall much less formal when in the park. I missed the meditation portion of the morning with the group , being late, they still did that. I do not think they did the chanting that day.

Today’s shooting was different from the other places. They were using tournament timing when shooting.  Sat. was test timing, I did not know there were such a things, so that was another lesson. That was fairly easy to catch on to once it was explained to me. It is set that way so the speed and flow of shooters can be kept smooth and a lot of people can shoot. I shot using the Renmei style. I will need to practice that a lot, I’m not feeling the draw as yet. No smoothness in it, not a good flow, balance is off and I even dropped an arrow. Doh! My shots where not close to the target, but on my last shot out of eight I did hit. I will get in practice with that over at RSD the home base. It is the same core expansion, but a bit different on the mechanics of the connection,  with the change of arm position.

While I was standing and watching I heard the Sensei giving a talk on holding the Yumi. I joined and listened. He explained about the grip, the space, the fingers, the placement on the bone. It made sense now and clicked. I took a close look at the grip and discovered in a way it is a modified Praying Mantis grip. I held the Sensei’s arm to confirm, he said adjust a finger pressure and that would be the bow grip. Sweet, I can now relate to the feel. I found myself practicing the grip on the steering wheel of the car on the drive North back home. There were other concepts discussed concerning balance, center, grounding vs hanging center. All of which related clearly to Tai Chi, Tan Tien, centering and expanding one’s core.  The Sensei, who also studies Tai Chi said; We do the same thing with finding the sameness to understand ( *another path or thought I could say…zen ) another art. You with  Tai Chi to Kyudo connections,  Me with Kyudo to Tai Chi connection. We uderstand the root principal, even though still needing to work on the technical parts. All of this gives validation to the thoughts I have been developing, seeing, understanding in my practices, connection, non-duality. Which in turn will help those I share some Motion Chan drills with to help develop core power, balance, center mindfulness in their Kyudo training. It is good when the Tao, gives a path marker and lets you know you are going in the right direction.

I did not get a lot of shooting time in on Sunday which was ok, I still learned alot which is what the whole thing was about. I chatted with a few of the students while there that day and also on Sat night after practice. Everyone was helpful that I spoke with, they have a good group there in LA. The students reflect the teacher, the target reflects the student.

It was a shorter day  on Sunday, and being late time went by even quicker. The group ended and started clean up, repairing targets, and the like. A well run effort everyone knew what to do and did it. I spoke with the Sensei and one student before leaving, concerning his visiting the Bay Area and about a seminar he is planning in the winter there in the South-Land. I will make plans to attend, if it is not too costly …even though, I will be working by then.

Next I was off to attend to my day stuff and the other reasons for my visit to the South-land. Before that I stopped at a Chinese vegetarian Restaurant, were I go to when I’m in town. I was looking forward to my one big meal of the day and I had no breakfast other than a Banana and water. I was ready to eat. I  had on my “Zen” shirt. The young Chinese man who sat me at the table, said you Buddhist?  I said, I follow  Ch’an. He said really, with a big smile and we bowed to each other. He was even more pleased when I spoke my limited Chinese to him and he helped me with a few words. After dinner and I was leaving, he gave me a smile and a deep bow. Another cross cultural connection established.

From there off to visit my brother, the main propose of the visit. Enough about me.

to be coniuned…Zanshin






Kyudo n LA…Japanese Cultural Center

21 07 2009

LA Kyudo – body

Sat evening at the Pasadena Japanese Cultural Center this is where the real deal took place. I was unsure what to expect so, I tried to throw out any expectations, empty my tea cup as it were… When I arrived a few youths were busily cleaning the floor, I thought they worked there but they were students. As more arrived they all found something to do to help clean. It was old school time…nice. Very typical of a Japanese style. Everyone cleans then practice. Soon it was time to setup things. I helped a little by then I could see what was happening and wanted to do a share to help the “Wa” .

IMG_4499

Once everything was in place, pillows, small baskets for gloves and what not, floor markers, they had it down to a well run machine. The start was the same, meditation, the chanting heart sutra. This time everyone is kneeling, Oh boy, pain pain pain. Even with pillows it still hurt, but I had to ganbatte. More so since I turned down a chair, being prideful. I made it through that, whewww. Only to find the second part waiting for my turn shooting also involved waiting in line …kneeling.  After a while I abandoned my ego and stood then sat crossed leg…no one cared.

I am so glad that my dojo friend from RSD showed me some of the basic of the Renmei”s Taihai otherwise I would have been totally out of place. I did manage to follow along with the form, roughly, but I was not comfortable. It was however understood I was a newbie, if there was anyone who cared. Everyone was mindful of their own practice, that I could tell…very Zen

I was taken aside and showed a couple of things, How to leave the area, how to hold the bow and Ya when starting the entrance form. Small things, but important. I was told by the Sensei, things that they ( The Renmei Board) will be looking at from the beginning of the test even before I shoot. In Kung Fu , someone with experience does not have to watch a person do a whole form to tell if they are good. It can be told in the first few steps. It is the same with this. You are “ON” from the time you step onto the floor. Long before one shoots, you are being observed and graded. After the pointers from the next day I understood, that the “shot” does not start from the target it starts when you pickup your Yumi. In Ch’an thought as life a shooting, your shot “starts’ when you get up out of bed.  Or even deeper we always need to be in a start of preparing for the shot mindset, that I think is the true Ch’an mind.

After our tea and chat break, the Sensei called the new students in his class over for a small drill and talk, I joined them. I wanted to hear all that was involved from the roots. I was but a child here, therefore wanted to drink of their milk tea nourishment. The drills were helpful, matching the breath with the movement. Also he gave some history background and spoke of things in a way that I could relate to. Comparisons on , Chi, Dan Tien, alignment, centering, Yin Yang, Buddhism, and Shinto. As a side lesson I learned what makes the difference between Chan and Japanese Zen is the Shinto influence. Chan in China is from Buddhism and Taoism, In Japan it is Chan and Shinto. Also it was said that Kyudo is part of Shinto’s history, where Zen is just a new addition in the scope of time.

One of the items on the agenda of this trip was checking out this Dojo and the Sensei, as he was checking me, I was checking him..as it should be. One should not study with a person if you do not respect him or just because a Dojo /Kwoon is closest to your home, or to fill your wishes. You will cloud your Karma. Better to study a hour with a master than a year with a illusion or a fool. I like this Sensei’s style, manner and sense of honor. I learned things just from watching him do his thing with the students. It was nice relating to his words at a core level.  I am looking to improve not only my Kyudo, I am also looking to improve my Martial teaching skills. This was yet another one of the reasons for me to doing Kyudo, was to improve my Kung Fu teaching skills on the levels above combat. I have been reading Illuminated Spirit by the Derospero’s. A wonderful reading book. How lucky they are to have come across their Sensei and were able to spend one on one time learning from a master. This book has also reminded me of the importance in being the best instructor you can be to each student on a balanced basic level. This is also Ch’an.

As I can better tie in things from Zen to Kyudo, Kyudo to Kung Fu, Kung Fu Ch’an, Ch’an to living, to Kyudo, to Sailing, to Ceramics, to Relationships, Relationships to the Universe, the Tao God, I will grow in Skills and Spirit on the three relms. Betterment of my Sanmi Ittai, in all things, from one,  grows two…

It was a good choice on several levels to visit  to LA.

to be continued…





Kyudo n LA…Kanzeonji

20 07 2009

LA Kyudo – Spirit/Mind

I went to three different Dojos’ while in LA. Even through run by the same person each was different and had a different energy, but the root sameness. It was like a living Kyudo Sanmi-Ittai. My day tripping began on Sat. Morning. It was early but not too bad. One good part about it is there was no traffic at 6:30 am on Sat. So I was able to zip to where I needed to be for Sat morning service.

IMG_4472

I arrived just in time for the second part of the Zazen. I went to the wrong place next door, before finding Kanzeonji where I needed to be. Kanzeonji is a small Zen Buddhist Temple located in the Mt Washington Area of Los Angeles.

IMG_4473

The meditation and the Kyudo was taking place there. As I tried to find my way around to the Zazen I was met outside by a young Asian man in a robe, who guided me in. More on this man later.

I joined the group for the second 30 min Zazen. As with Soto style we faced the wall. That sitting time went by much faster than I imagined. Next up was the part I was not looking forward to ! One hour of chanting Sutra’s. We do not do Chanting in our Chan group so it is always a little strange for me. Today I was relaxed. It was a very small group only 3 of us, plus the abbot and a Monk/Priest ( the Kyudo Sensei). The Young Man, my guide, pointed to where in the book we were. It was helpful. He also did this when we were chanting and I got lost…repeatedly. That was the hard part, keeping up, and If I stopped for a moment to think about pronunciation , they moved on to the next words, so no time to think. The WORST part of the Chanting was having to kneel for one hour. We do not spend a lot of time on our knees in Chinese Chan..none in fact. So this was a test for me. Little did I realize this was the easy part as I could use a cushion to support my weight…The real deal came later…

After the morning services, the Kyudo people started coming at 9:00. One of the people is a Lady I met at one of my groups retreats. We exchanged greetings and such. Then I was told the format of the kyudo session, by the young man, my guide let’s call him.

We meditated again, chanted the Diamond Lotus Sutra, then went out and shot one arrow. Then had tea. I found out later this was not a teaching class. It was more of a Spiritual Shower for the morning, Everyone was to shoot one arrow via whatever Style you chose to use. Styles did not matter in the morning session. A couple of the people did very ceremonial shots. Bow, Kneeling, turns. Very much as presenting an offering in front of the Shinto shrine the shooting area was located.

IMG_4476

However after everyone had shot. We were given some instruction on how to hold/grasp the Yumi and a short demo. I made some mental notes.

After the shooting we sat again had tea and fruit and chatted. It was a pleasantly different experience. Then we took apart the Dojo and cleaned up.

Facing the mirror at the shrine

Facing the mirror at the shrine

My guide at one point says to me, are you still using Mac’s? Huh?!? How do you know that?  I say, rather surprised! I know you he says, you know my mother. It turns out his mother and I took some computer classes together. We were buds at one time. This guy I had not seen in some 10 yrs he was grown now. Small world, now to meet him here as a Monk in training, studying Kyudo, Amazing running into that sort of connection karma.

Afterward I went to lunch with the Kyudo Sensei and met his family. He also took me to his home and showed me his private Dojo and meditation shack next to the family veggie garden.  I had explained to his wife about how to make pesto earlier. The yard and training area where peaceful. I was invited to shoot there when I visited another time.

Next stop on the Day, was meeting up with the “Team Buddha”, I’ll call them. We had been in contact for several months via the Blog/network social clubs. We hung out, laughed and had a few deep thoughts 🙂

IMG_4496

After a struggle finding parking and being totally amazed at the numbers of people out shopping in Pasadena, who had not heard or care that there was a recession on. Good for them. Anyway we met in Starbuck and chatted for a couple of hours. While shopping, and being seen went on in Pasadena, CA home of the Rose Parade.

IMG_4497

So ended my Sat. part one and two events. time for part three… I headed out for a new location. Pasadena Japanese Cultural Center.





On the Road…Kyudo in LA

18 07 2009

I’m starting this from my room in LA. That is LA as in Los Angeles, not Louisiana, to the un- hip. I had a fairly quick drive down on Friday.  I stopped at my favorite road side restaurant on I-5 for a tuna sand and drink. They have the ceiling lined with old lunch boxes I remember from when I was a kid.

IMG_4465

They are most likely worth a bunch to a collector. Nothing other really of note to write on the drive, other than passing a large fire in the mtn’s on the way into the LA Valley.

smoke

I stopped by and saw a couple of friends who I have not seen in about 10 yrs, and then 10-15 yrs before that. They treated me to dinner

IMG_4471

(all face pictures in this series have a filter on the photo)

I trained Shotokan Karate with them. Also Chewy was my bass player when I did a few duo cafe house  gigs, played on my album demo tape and helped me learn Bass. Along with some other hippie adventures we had back in the day, including my first sailboat ride. Good times, and I’m alive to recall them…but those are other stories…

Tomorrow begins a long day of Kyudo training. I’ve been invited to Zazen and Chanting at 6:30 for two hours. TWO HOURS!! Whoa! Then Kyudo practice from 9:00am to 12:00pm. Oh , BTW the temps here in LA over the weekend will be close to 100 degrees!!

Then a lunch break until 5:30 pm and another Kyudo session from 5:30 til 10:00 pm. It will be a long day. I am expecting to meetup with some cool folks as well.  It should be Awsome…well except for the gettin up that early while on the road part…to be continued