Friday Fu – Hsing-I

31 10 2010

It had been a while since I went down to my Shifu’s school for Friday Fu. I missed it, essentially my only time of bonding with my peers. It was on the quiet side this Friday, but still enough was going on to make it worthwhile.

There is a senior practitioner there who is under one system, Tai Chi Praying Mantis, my Elder  Brother ( shixong/sihing), yet under another my Sisuk, ( Younger Uncle). Either way he is my senior and a wealth of information. I hit him up to help me review the Combination Hsing-i form I learned from Kam Shifu back when I was in LA.

This is a form taught by Wong Jack Man, Sigong who is a grandmaster of the Northern Shaolin Monastery System. It is a combination of the 5 elements form as well as animals. Within the system there are single element movements and single animal forms (sets/kata).

I questioned Eng Shifu on the what & why of Hsing-I. I had heard him say a few months ago that it was powerful for health. He had heard Wong Sigong speak of it but at the time he ( Shifu) did not really “get it”. Now he understands. I wondered why is was so powerful for health, and why is Tai Chi promoted as such but not so much Hsing-I . Eng Shifu said, basically, Tai Chi is good for over all everything. With Hsing-I there is the concentration on the five Elements. With my Feng Shui background I understood just what he was saying. He added, Hsing-I has a deep philosophy also relating to the I-Ching hexagrams. Now one must keep in mind that Tai Chi does has philosophy relating to the I-Ching hexagrams also. In fact since the I-Ching represent all stages of life, everything in Chinese Philosophy has relation to the I-Ching Hexigrams and the FIve Elements. Hmmm maybe I’ll do a post on the I-Ching Hexagrams relating to Kyudo…I digress

Hsing-I is internally complex says Eng Shifu. Too much so to go into details simply, however there should be some good translated text on the internal aspects of Hsing-I. Not books on techniques he said, but the “chi” internal working of Hsing -I. External techniques are external techniques. That was enough for me at this time and answered my question. The rest I can research, with some knowledge of Chinese medicine and Feng Shui as well as the I-Ching I can go from there.

I had studied some Hsing-I with Kam Yuen Shifu while training at the Torrance, Ca school however I did not really get into it. It was too linear and seemed power orientated to me, I preferred Ba Qua, the angles seemed to fit my spirit. In truth it still does, however now with some insight to the internal workings of the Art I can understand the benefits of it. The delivery of power, the cultivation of Chi.  I feel can make it work, at least link it in a way that it will help support the other Arts practiced, including Kyudo.

It is said of Hsing-I:

Hsing I Ch’uan translates to “form and intention boxing” or “body-mind boxing”. The history of Hsing I Ch’uan is unclear. One account credits Boddhidarma with its creation; while others credit general Yeuh Fei of the Northern Sung Dynasty (960-1127). Hence, it is unclear whether Hsing I Ch’uan is a Taoist art like T’ai Chi Ch’uan or a Buddhist art of the Shaolin temple. Chances are that it was developed by many masters both Taoist and Buddhist over an extended period of time. Like T’ai Chi Ch’uan, Hsing I Ch’uan is considered an internal art


Image ripped off from some where else

Springing from Taoist and Buddhist techniques, Hsing-I is cooperative , not competitive; it emphasizes being and becoming rather than thinking and doing. But it requires disciplined and much hard work.

Hsing-I Chuan (mind formed fist) is essentially a meditative form of health and body management from which self defense spills over rather than an aggressive combat form, of which the world already has too many.

This will give me another aspect to draw from when setting up my teaching practice in Japan.I am not seeking the classes to be run as a typical Martial Art class based heavy on self-defense per-se, more so self-defense based on defending oneself against the attacks of Stress & Aging. Not to make another fighting/combat style but to give a balance to teaching of my Northern Shaolin Tai Chi Praying Mantis Style from a Spiritual and Physical place. Spiritual Kung Fu as it were in a sense. Also to raise the level of my Chan and Kyudo practice.

I worked some that evening with Sihing on the first part of the Combined form. I heard him saying the names of the elements and animal as we went through the set, great this will help my research once I have the set re-learned. Another good thing going through this with Sihing is it is more current from Sigong. Kam Shifu changed a lot of things he taught us.

The rest of the evening practice was spent chatting, and then reviewing some knife attack defenses, before sitting down to eat.

The big topic tonight at meal time was Kung Fu movies.

LA – Kyudo, Kung Fu, Music, part II

28 10 2010

Sunday Day II

Sunday morning I was up and doing my morning routine early. I was off to visit another Kyudo school’s, Nanka Kyudo Kai, Sunday open practice for any style at Rancho Park Archery Range.

One of my problems for the weekend was being turned around with the map and directions. Today was no different I was an hour late. However I made it for the last portion and able to get some shots in. Rick ( Jyozen-san) Sensei was kind enough to help me with my form even though I came late and had only a little time.

After watching me shoot, he said I had made good improvement since he last saw me. He then explained to me about vertical alignment. Reaching for Heaven and Earth, same concept as in Tai Chi. Not just about being grounded and using the Tan Tien but also about stretching the spine. Being held by the golden tread we say in Tai Chi.  Using the vertical to help the horizontal line. The large cross. Not just relaxing down, sinking the Ki/Tan Tien, relaxing outward to the target in the left and right directions.
This in turn flowed into another discussion. I had mentioned about being told about my dropping my left and the suggestion I was given about correcting it. Jyozen-san relied, yes, that is understandable. There is another path it has to do with what we just discussed , he said. Expanding inner space. The vertical line extended in two directions, also extending the horizontal line in two directions. As when you do a punch in Tai Chi, the punch is two directional. When expanding your inner space ( Ki) to the target in front also expand to the “rear”. Turn your face to the target of the left hand, turn the back of the head to the target in the “rear” 180 degrees from the target, the right hand. The support of the horizontal, from the vertical, interdependance of all things. This will keep your left steady from the support of the right, the expanding of the line. This principal is also shown in Aikido with the unbending arm drill, Ki is extended from the Tan Tien outward into the arm and beyond, In the grounding drill Ki is extended not just into the ground below or space above the head, but beyond in both directions.

Another point, the shot does not end on the release of the arrow,   the striking of the target, or Zanshin …no beginning, no end. The end is when you replace your Yumi in the rack…or does it…

The world is our Dojo.

I have restated most of this into my interpretaion and paraphrasing but this is the base of the talk.

Jyozen-san is one of my favorite instructors/coaches ( please visit his blogs). As a Zen priest and a marital artist he explains things in forms that take on many levels of crossing over to me. The non-duality is there. So when he says things in/about Kyudo it relates in with my Tai Chi, Kung Fu and Chan. Kyudo is Tai Chi, Tai Chi is Kyudo. I have a article preparing for Nihon Kyudo magazine on this topic…for now as they say that is another story, it will be here as a blog post.

Jyozen-san also helped explain the conflict I was having with elbow up or down position in Daisan. It was an excellent session greatly apprechated since I do not get to get much instruction these days with my work load. I’m doing good just to get in some shooting practice.

The session there at Rancho Park was short but the icing on the cake of the weekend. I was invited to come by and practice with him at his home whenever I could. I will be sure to make a visit to So Cal at least a couple of times before the test in MN next year for my NiDan. Then there is the SanDan test 2012 before heading to Japan. That is my big internal Kyudo goal before leaving the states, to be skilled enough to pass. Not only for my Kyudo development, for my Tai Chi and Kung Fu development. I can already see the change, influence in my teaching level. Which was part of my desire for learning Kyudo. Helping to understand the Non-duality of Chan (Zen), Kyudo, Tai Chi, Kung Fu and being able to express that in my teaching. The balance of the body, mind and spirit.

My next stop on the way back north was to visit an old band and Shotokan Karate classmate. It was a quick visit before heading off to Monterey for a short hangout with the Tokyo Delegation. LZ and I’s other Blasian compadres.  I had an unplanned dinner with them before hitting the Hwy back from a very full, relaxing but busy weekend.

It was good to go, it was good to be back.

After the drama at work the following week I was extra glad I went to LA.

Listening to the voice of God…

24 10 2010

It is rare that God will speak in a voice to anyone, unless you are Moses, JC or in that league. That is rare, however it came to me like we feel in Chan words are minor. It is actions that speak louder, events, heart to heart communication. I think “God” speak to us always it is just a matter of listening not for the words, but for the signs, the flow of things around us. I do not believe is some gray bearded white dude sitting on a throne. However that does not make him/she /it not real. The image of some Gray Beard Dude is just a metaphor for something, perhaps too big for our limited human mind. Like the word GOD, is just a word, a sound for some spirit greater than us, which we can only imagine in a limited form, The Old Guy, The Great Spirit,  The Great Buddha, Allah, Jehovah, Heavenly Father, the Creator we could even call it Big George none of the names matter.  It says in the Tao Te Ching, the Tao that can be named is not the true Tao. We can not see the wind, but it is real, we can not see Chi/Ki but it is real, we can not see gravity…We can not see love, only the results, the actions.

There was a HUGE upheaval at work this past week. I thought I was out of a job, once again! There was some backstabbing, plots, lies, and the manager was fired. His higher boss came in and started making major changes. One of them was cutting my position. I was offered the next shift position doing somewhat the same thing.  However that would have meant dropping my evening classes. If it was just me teaching in the park I would have. However with the City of Alameda involved and 30 students, it would not have been honorable. Another thing is I do not see that position lasting long.

I was offered another part-time position @ 20 hours, which would have also meant messing up some other people who I work for on the weekend. Sigh. So I prepared the hours I was available to work ( and updated my resumes) and prepared myself to be jobless for the most part yet again. However my hours were accepted and I go in to work still on Monday, less hours, start @ 5:00 am!!

So what does this have to do with the voice of God. I think, I was being told, I should not be slacking off with looking for another job, I had been getting to lazy and settled in. I knew the original job was not permanent, not that any are these days, however I felt the Universe, my spirit guides, as it were would look out for me.

I was correct, I am not jobless, however I have been kicked in the pants to get busy with my search, do not get lackadaisical. This job reeks of impermanence, and the voice of God, saying, Yo, get busy ZenDude, time to move on.

LA – Kyudo, Kung Fu and Music – Part I

24 10 2010

After putting it off for several times I got my act together and hit the road for LA. The weather was a shock after roasting here in the Nor Cal for the last week it was weird being in chilly and rain. However it did not lessen the quality of the visit.


It had been almost a year since I went down to LaLaland to visit and see my late brother and clear out his apt with his passing a week later. This trip was about getting his Bass out of pawn. The interest was adding up and I did not want it to be lost or keep paying. I was lucky to get a tab on it when I thought it was already history. Since it turned up I felt he would be pleased if I saved it. I saw some pictures of his joy when he purchased it and some of when it was just hanging on display before he purchased it.

This Bass will be one of the three I take to Japan, the other is his 4 string and my Acoustic Bass. I am hopeful to restart my musical life there. Here it, among other creative things has seemed to reach a dead end. Just surviving is the challenge.

Retrieving the Bass was the first thing taken care of on my arrival to LA. Once that was done I was able to focus on visiting, Kyudo and some fun.

While in town I stayed at a hotel for a change instead of with friends. I found this hotel in the Japanese section of town where I used to live. It was not fancy but clean and cheap. In a way it was like being in Japan or at least in Hawaii.

The desk staff spoke Japanese. They were were surprised when I spoke to them in Japanese. One woman had such a look of shock, I had to tease her. Nanda doshite bikuri. The signs everywhere were in Japanese. There were a couple of big Japanese markets around so I picked up some Shochu on sale and some Sake to take back home.

Breakfast was included at the hotel. The weekend menu is not as full as the weekday. My breakfast for the two days was rice, seaweed, and pickled veggies. Some green tea and a croissant. It was light and free.
Free being the key word.

My first stop after business was to see one of my Kung Fu brethren who runs a large traditional school in town, Lomita Shaolin Temple Kung Fu School. I had a fairly short visit with him . We got to Chat only for a bit as he had a private student waiting and a class afterward to teach.  We spoke of a meal together later but I was on a mission and couldn’t commit to anything. It was a walk down memory lane in visiting his school. All the old pictures around, wall lined with trophies and dance lions, the school still has that 70’s feel, unlike the highly polished and sterile schools that line the area currently run by “masters” who gave been training for the average of 10 years…

My big disappointment was, next before going to the Kyudo dojo. I went by my favorite Chinese Veggie place for lunch, it was closed down and no more, bummer. Adapting and moving on, I had lunch at the hotel with something good I picked up at Trader Joe’s.

Kyudo time:
I head over to Long Beach to visit and practice with Team G3 and their class.

The park were the class is held is very nice. There is a seniors something archery contest going on at the time. The lady at the gate was not sure if other classes were being held so she let me in the parking area for free…Cool or what!

I watched and visited a while and got off one Makiwara shoot before Sakurai Sensei president of the Southern Cal Renmei showed up. We had only spoke very Briefly in Japan and other than on Facebook had not spoken live to each other.

We got to chat for a while on this and that, Kyudo and non-Kyudo items. Soon Joined by Marcus Sensei we had a nice visit. I forgot to take a group picture though before he left.

After that I put in some Makiwara time to work on my form. M3 watched me shoot and made a suggestion on how to stop my left hand from dropping.

Part of the solution was to have me shoot from a kneeling Ashibume. This way I could feel the difference from my stance being more stable, I’m guessing. The other part was on turning when releasing. Hard to explain. It is however like what Ling Sisuk told me about doing a forward stance or toe stance, call a cat stance in Karate. Kyudo is about Mind , body , spirit. This tip was very much about mind and spirit affecting the body.
Basically curving the mind, the thought upward on release. It was a small thing but made big difference. The next shot was clean no hand drop, the ya hit the Makiwara deep and level. Another little something to add to the line up to recall when shooting.
Another tip was to use power on my left hand to help with the spin on Hanare.

Kung Fu:

My next visit across town is with another couple of Kung Fu brethren.

One of them worked with the late David Carridine on the 2nd Kung Fu series. For several years he has been working on these things called Phi Chi sticks. They are a training aid, designed to help one work with spiral motion and energy. He has gone from working with them with bamboo to PVC to now Acrylic. They have the nicest look and feel.

He has given me samples over the years. Today was no different. His latest one still built on this curve he has calculated is just is portion of it. This is my favorite so far. I like the way it fits in my hand. It can be used to hurt or heal. Easy to carry and conceal. He said when he saw this finished it had my name on it. It seemed perfect how I move.

One of the cooler aspects of this is it can hurt or heal. It works as well for combat as it does for massage/acupressure. One can not get lost in just the negative vibe of combat with Kung Fu. Like Shaolin Temple even though it has a side of violence, Shaolin Temple is really about Love.

Chan Ding ( Zazen) Tai Chi

11 10 2010

I have a new Tai Chi student, one of LZ’s buds. We had our first class the other day. Generally when I get students for Tai Chi I know what they are looking for for the most part. On this case I did not since I did not speak with her about studying before hand.

I find it is a good practice to have some type of interview with new students to see what they are expecting, their goals that sort of thing. Not just to pay the money and start training. I do not get to do that in the Park & Rec classes, the students just show up and I give them a lecture so they know what is up.

Few come to Tai Chi to learn self defense at least self defense in terms of physical combat skill. Mental and health defense/well being, yes. In my interview with the new student, Yo-San, I also got to access my own current view of Tai Chi and the teaching of it and mythology.

Back in the day it was all about physical training on being smooth, the flow the underlying applications. We would just start with the form. After training with Sisuk it shifted to more body awareness and it’s full use. Body, waist Tan Tien to move the arms. Use of the Tan Tien more, Tai Chi walk became the starting point, along with breath.

After doing Chen for the last several years, I find my starting point has again shifted. As an internal art, internal should be a deeper starting point than even telling the student focus on the Tan Tien when doing the Tai Chi walk. They need to understand, to get a feel for the Tan Tien location, beyond an intellectual location.  Meditation, Chan Ding is a better starting point, IMHO. Finding the Tan Tien, becoming aquaited with it, linking it with the mind, then the body movements. This is I feel a better path. Sitting, belly breathing, Tai Chi walk and stance is a better foundation for growing the flowering bamboo of Tai Chi. This is akin to understanding the 8 steps of Kyudo before shooting or the 8 stance drills in the Tai Chi Praying Mantis System before doing anything. Sitting Chan Ding / belly breathing / Tai Chi walk = Ashibumi, Dozukuri, Yagamae, etc.

In traditional Kung Fu, Karate, Kyudo the first things studied are the stances, grounding ( Ashibumi, Dozukuri ). I think though as Tai Chi is classed as an internal art one should start with the core of internal. Meditation and breath then expand outward to stances and movement. Kyudo even though a Border Art, meaning both internal and external, it still starts it training from an external position, at least in what I have seen from the “Renmei” side. Where as with “Shibata” style even though not formally starts with Zazen. Both systems say they are about developing the person not just the shooter. Both do lean more on one side than the other.

In the world of Tai Chi this is also true. There are schools that know nothing of the combat roots of Tai Chi, and others that stress that Combat path. Like Buddhisum I think the middle path is best… for the adverage person of this day and age. To be like the bamboo to bend in the storm, to grow and flower the roots must be deep and expansive . All the arts at some point cover the same elements. As with Feng Shui no matter the style one needs to understand the Five elements theory. In martial art it is Ki, Stance, Breath, Focus… Mind, Body, Spirit. No matter where you learn or from who, or what point on the circle you start from to be good you must have a balance of all three.

There is no duality in the arts they are all expression of the great TAO , Shin Zen Bi, flowers in a field, and as such all have the same need of balance of elements. In the Physical Arts it is mind, body and spirit. Back to my new student. Teaching her from this new base will give me a chance to refine the class curriculum for Japan as well as develop the language skill to instruct in, at least on a fundamental level, parts…ok at least a few words.

End of an Era…RIP

8 10 2010

…and now for something completely different

Snif snif …sigh

It was fun. However I saw the writing on the wall when I rev’ed up and pop the tranny into third gear and heard loud grinding sounds of gears and the motor spinning higher in revolutions ( I did not miss my shift). I knew from then on it was down-hill and just a matter of time. I thought, with much wishful thinking I, it would hold out for the next two years if I took it easy

The old BMW was not my first choice as a replacement for my retired aged Porsche.

However, LZ liked the conservative square shape and four adults could sit in it comfortably, which was important with visitors coming from Japan. On top of that and most important to me it handled well with some zip. It was in ways a nicer car than the Pors. other than the style, to me at least. Driving wise it the BMW ( 6 cyl) was the bomb! The Pors ( 4 cyl ) handled great but had no zip off the line, but looked really cool.

It also felt more solid than the Acura which was recently sold. It seemed like the best of both world, kind of Buddhist in it’s middle ground being.

There were some good times with the Beemer, but it was a different time in my life from the Porsche days. No frequent road trips to LA , no trips into the the winding mountain trials or the turns and valleys along the ocean on the Pacific Coast Highway, or flying through the monster sized Redwoods with a big red Akita laying in the back hatch… ah good times.

When driving home from my dead end survival job and I heard the loud pop, I knew it was major trouble. After being towed off the highway and placed in a parking lot waiting for the tow truck to take it to a car medic I saw a sign of death. Oil was dripping, er, more like pouring in a large pool, like blood from a fatal head wound. I did not know where it came from but I knew it was not good. I never did find out what the cause of that was, the other injuries were to great continue the repair operation. So ended the last of the California Zen sports cars.

Kind of like the last things left from my days in a good career,  Designing, music making, ceramics, being creative. Now it is just trying to survive. Nihon is my new frontier…seems like in the states I have reached a wall. Things that are about here, are falling apart, things that are about a new life in Japan are developing well. I maybe wrong but, feels like  the end of an era here, time to move on. I feel no growth and everyday my spirit dies a little.

Driving the truck to a security job kind of go hand in hand.

Grateful to have both,

for many have neither ,

I must remember to be.


One door closes …

Another opens

I need to remind me.

Kyudo on the water…

2 10 2010

This Sunday past, was the official naming ceremony for our boat, Zen II. A while back I had the idea of shooting a few Ya to mark our ocean passage. Then had the idea of doing Kyudo as part of the naming ceremony for our boat.  It went well. I did the full write up on the Zensekai 2 by Sea blog so will not do it again here. However here is a shorten edit video of the ceremony…